Short-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus griseus
Short-billed Dowitcher specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (10 ½ - 12 inches) sandpiper, the Short-billed Dowitcher in summer is most easily identified by its mottled gray back, rufous neck, and long bill (although somewhat shorter than the bill of the related Long-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus). In winter, this species becomes mottled gray above and solid gray below. Field marks visible at any time of year include a conspicuous dark eye-stripe, green legs, and pale belly. Male and female Short-billed Dowitchers are similar to one another in all seasons. The Short-billed Dowitcher breeds in three main populations: the first along the coast of southern Alaska and nearby areas of Canada, the second in the plains of western Canada, and the third along the Hudson Bay east to Quebec. This species is a long-distance migrant, wintering along the coasts from California and the Mid-Atlantic south to northern South America. This species primarily migrates up and down the coasts, and populations that nest in the interior turn inland only after they have reached New England or southern Canada. Short-billed Dowitchers breed in swampy areas of northern forests, often near the tree line at the edge of the tundra. This species is heavily associated with saltwater during the winter, being found on mud flats in salt marshes, coastal lagoons, and shallow mangrove wetlands in the tropics. Short-billed Dowitchers primarily eat small invertebrates, with insects being preferred in summer and small saltwater aquatic animals being preferred in winter. Due to the relative inaccessibility of this species’ breeding grounds, most birdwatchers never observe Short-billed Dowitchers during the summer months. In winter, when this species is more common near populated areas, Short-billed Dowitchers are most easily seen standing on mudflats while probing for food in the mud with their bills. This species is primarily active during the day, but may migrate at night as well as during the day.

DC Information

Fairly common migrant, early April to late May and early July to early November. Found along mud flats. Both sexes have a large white rump patch.

Specimen Information

These two records are probably related to these birds; their sex has not  been determined.
Date:  8/23/1926
Collected By:  Paul Bartsch
Locality:  Stirrup Key, E Florida
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  307523
Date:  9/10/1929
Collected By:  Wm H Ball
Locality:  Hains Point, DC
Sex:  immature
Catalog ID:  313016

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalization

Sound from xeno-canto. XC56426 Limnodromus griseus (Short-billed Dowitcher)