Species Profile: Long-Billed Dowitcher

After many submissions of water birds to our Flickr photo group, we thought that it was about time to select one of them for this second week of the new year. We have been out birding in local swamps and riparian areas recently and have noticed a few shore birds. We have yet to see the one in this week’s selection.

The Long-billed Dowitcher can be seen by British Columbians when it is migrating down the Pacific coast in the fall. This is when Totororo.roro would have taken the photograph of them sleeping at the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Delta BC.  It is more often seen south of Vancouver in winter and will go as far as Central America during the colder months. It is an archetypal wetland bird: most commonly found in freshwater marshes, wet meadows, and coastal riparian areas, it feeds on insects, larvae, aquatic insects, mollusks and marine worms.  The medium-to-large shorebird builds its nest from a clump of moss or grass, often lining it with sedge in the arctic tundra marshes along the Alaska coastline.

While the female births the four eggs, the male is the primary parent! Both share the 21 day incubation period, but often the female will leave soon after the eggs have hatched. The  young are very self-sufficient, foraging for their own food within a day of hatching, and their father stays with them until they fledge (an additional 20-30 days).

You will likely recognize this bird by its “sewing machine” motion when searching for grubs along the muddy shoreline. It is sometimes confused with the Short-billed Dowicher (it was not distinguished as a separate species until 1950!), but it’s call is a good indicator. Listen to its call here.

The varied plumage of the Long-billed Dowitcher has been captured beautifully in this photograph, as has the calm of the bird sanctuary where they slumber. We thank TOTORORO.RORO for their submission of the intimate view of this quirky wetland bird.

Click here for the original image and more of this photographer’s work.

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