Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Long-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus scolopaceus

Although the two dowitcher species are strikingly similar in appearance, they tend to segregate by habitat. The Long-billed prefers fresh water at all seasons; it is a common migrant through much of North America (but scarce in the northeast).
Conservation status Still widespread and common. Numbers of migrants reportedly have increased in some areas during recent decades.
Family Sandpipers
Habitat Mudflats, shallow pools, margins; mostly on fresh water. Even in coastal regions, migrants and wintering birds tend to occur on freshwater habitats, such as ponds, impoundments, upper reaches of estuaries. Sometimes out on open tidal flats with Short-billed Dowitchers. Breeds in far north on wet, hummocky tundra.
Although the two dowitcher species are strikingly similar in appearance, they tend to segregate by habitat. The Long-billed prefers fresh water at all seasons; it is a common migrant through much of North America (but scarce in the northeast).
Photo Gallery
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • immature (1st year)
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Typically forages by wading in shallow water (sometimes walking on wet mud), probing deeply in the mud with its bill. Usually deliberate in its feeding, standing in one spot or moving forward slowly.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3. Olive to brown, marked with brown. Incubation is by both sexes at first, then mostly or entirely by male in later stages. Incubation period 20-22 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Female reportedly departs near the time the eggs hatch, leaving male to care for young. Young find all their own food; development of young and age at first flight not well known.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Female reportedly departs near the time the eggs hatch, leaving male to care for young. Young find all their own food; development of young and age at first flight not well known.

Diet

Small aquatic invertebrates. Diet probably varies with season. Particularly on breeding grounds, eats many insects and their larvae, including many flies, beetles, others. In migration and winter also eats mollusks, marine worms, crustaceans. At times, may feed heavily on seeds of grasses, bulrushes, pondweeds, other plants.


Nesting

Breeding range is mostly in Arctic coastal regions, generally farther north and west than that of Short-billed Dowitcher. Nest site is on ground, usually near water, often on raised hummock or tussock in wet meadow. Nest is a depression sparsely lined with sedges, grasses; bottom of nest is often wet.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

From breeding range in far northwest, many migrate southeast to reach Atlantic seaboard. On both coasts, this species may linger later in fall and winter farther north than the Short-billed Dowitcher.

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Migration

From breeding range in far northwest, many migrate southeast to reach Atlantic seaboard. On both coasts, this species may linger later in fall and winter farther north than the Short-billed Dowitcher.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A high sharp keek, quite unlike call of Short-billed Dowitcher.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.