Bird GuideSandpipersLong-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Limnodromus scolopaceus

At a Glance

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).
Sandpiper-like Birds, Sandpipers
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


12" (30 cm). Chunky with short neck and very long bill. In spring, patterned brown above, rich chestnut below, darker than Short-billed Dowitcher. Juveniles in fall dark on upperparts, with very narrow pale feather edgings. Winter birds all gray. Voice is best distinction between the two dowitchers.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Gray, Red, White
Wing Shape
Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A high sharp keek, quite unlike call of Short-billed Dowitcher.
Call Pattern
Flat, Undulating
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Trill


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.



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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Still widespread and common. Numbers of migrants reportedly have increased in some areas during recent decades.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Long-billed Dowitcher. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Long-billed Dowitcher

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.