Friday, September 18, 2009

Long-billed Dowitcher

[There's always something to look at, even on slow days, e.g. this juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher photographed by Michael O'Brien up on the Higbee Beach WMA dike this morning. As always, we caution that the trail up to the Higbee Dike is treacherously slippery and steep, and not for everyone. Click to enlarge.]

So why is it a Long-billed? I watched this bird for quite a while this morning and it never appeared particularly round, the "swallowed a grapefruit" look Long-billeds sometimes give, but it does have a thickish neck and largish head (don't you just love those "ish" field marks?) and a longish, straight bill. Being a juvenile at close range makes the i.d. a cinch, just look at the plain tertials (as opposed to patterned ones on Short-billed). Long-billed Dowitchers tend to look very sooty gray in juvenal and non-breeding plumage, darker gray than Short-billeds. Juvenile Short-billeds tend to look very colorful, with brightly fringed upperparts feathers.

Best of all, when it flew past it said "keek!" A much different sound that Short-billeds' mellow chuckling whistles. Call is always best when it comes to dowitchers, and happily Long-billed Dowitchers call frequently, even while feeding but especially in flight.

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