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.
Photo Gallery
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.
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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.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Short-billed Dowitcher

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Short-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.

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Mississippi River Delta

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