Birding Sanibel Island and the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Shorebird ID is always tough for me because I don't get to see them that often, so when large flocks of assorted waders fly in, I really have to think. When trying to identify shorebirds, I focus on three things to start; leg color, bill shape, and height. Since I can't identify shorebirds yet by call, and I normally see them only in non-breeding plumage, sticking to the "big three" seems to be the best way for me to ID them.
Short-billed Dowitchers and Long-billed Dowitchers look a lot alike, but according to my "Birds of Florida" book by Pranty, Radamaker, and Kennedy, Long-billed Dowitchers are "restricted to fresh water during winter." Since it was the end of winter when I saw this bird, and he was standing where the land meets the sea, it was easy to deduce that this fellow was the short-billed version of the bird...
The Short-billed Dowitcher's field marks are pretty clear...a medium-sized shorebird with pale yellow legs and a very long, straight bill. Check!
...the two yellow-legged Short-billed Dowitchers seem to be pointing at the tiny Dunlin in front of them. It's easy to see dowitchers are medium-sized birds compared to the tiny Dunlins or Sanderlings.
...for comparison, a Short-billed Dowitcher stands next to a Dunlin. (For an earlier post on Dunlins, click here.) Size, leg color, and bill shape are different between these two birds!
...not quite The Three Tenors, but these three Short-billed Dowitchers look dapper in the sun. Our little Dunlin doesn't seem to be able to keep his eyes open!