Photo: Richard Crossley/Vireo

Priority Bird

Short-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus griseus

The name of this species could be misleading: it is "short-billed" only by comparison to the Long-billed Dowitcher, and longer-billed than the average shorebird. Flocks of Short-billed Dowitchers wade in shallow water over coastal mudflats. They often seem rather tame, allowing a close approach when they are busy feeding.
Conservation status As with many other shorebird species, large numbers where shot during migration in the 1800s, so probably less numerous than historical levels now. Current populations probably stable, but vulnerable.
Family Sandpipers
Habitat Mudflats, tidal marshes, pond edges. Migrants and wintering birds favor coastal habitats, especially tidal flats on protected estuaries and bays, also lagoons, salt marshes, sometimes sandy beaches. Migrants also stop inland on freshwater ponds with muddy margins. Breeds in far north, mostly in open bogs, marshes, and edges of lakes within coniferous forest zone.
The name of this species could be misleading: it is "short-billed" only by comparison to the Long-billed Dowitcher, and longer-billed than the average shorebird. Flocks of Short-billed Dowitchers wade in shallow water over coastal mudflats. They often seem rather tame, allowing a close approach when they are busy feeding.
Short-billed Dowitcher around Connecticut

Audubon Connecticut’s priority bird species are birds of significant conservation need, for which our actions, over time, can lead to measurable improvements in status.  Some of these species are listed as vulnerable or near threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Redlist.  Others are species of conservation concern on the National Audubon Society’s Watchlist or identified as priorities by Partners in Flight.  Many priority species are also listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern  in Connecticut and are included in Connecticut’s Wildlife Action Plan. The breadth of this list reflects the dramatic loss of habitat and the pervasive threats that confront birds and other wildlife.

Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding, Atlantic
  • adult, nonbreeding, Atlantic
  • juvenile
  • adult, breeding, Pacific
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, breeding, Atlantic
  • juvenile
  • adult, breeding, Interior
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-buff to brown, marked with brown. Incubation is by both sexes, about 21 days. Young: Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Roles of parents in caring for young not well known, but reportedly female departs, leaving male to tend the chicks. Young find all their own food. Their development and age at first flight are not well known.


Young

Downy young leave nest shortly after hatching. Roles of parents in caring for young not well known, but reportedly female departs, leaving male to tend the chicks. Young find all their own food. Their development and age at first flight are not well known.

Diet

Small aquatic invertebrates. Diet probably varies with season. Eats many insects and their larvae, especially on breeding grounds. In migration and winter also eats mollusks, marine worms, crustaceans. At times, may feed heavily on seeds of grasses, bulrushes, pondweeds, other plants. In spring, also feeds on eggs of horseshoe crab.


Nesting

Much of nesting area is far inland, generally south and east of the breeding range of Long-billed Dowitcher. Nest site is on ground in bog, forest clearing, or edge of tundra, often near water. Nest is a shallow depression in moss or in a clump of grass, lined with small twigs, leaves, fine grasses.

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

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

Migration

Breeds in three distinct regions, with distinct migratory routes and wintering areas. Alaska birds winter on Pacific Coast, central Canada birds migrate through Great Plains and along Atlantic Coast, eastern Canada birds stay east, winter as far south as Brazil.

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Migration

Breeds in three distinct regions, with distinct migratory routes and wintering areas. Alaska birds winter on Pacific Coast, central Canada birds migrate through Great Plains and along Atlantic Coast, eastern Canada birds stay east, winter as far south as Brazil.

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

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Sandpipers Sandpiper-like Birds

Short-billed Dowitcher

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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Mississippi River Delta

Mississippi River Delta

Audubon’s policy team and grassroots activists are instrumental in gaining national support for ongoing recovery work in the delta

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