Most migratory shorebirds are headed south to their winter home.

While most people are staying inside to dodge the summer heat, most shorebirds are migrating south. Large numbers and a great variety of shorebirds can be seen this time of year.

Where to see them
Shorebirds will be migrating across much of the United States.  Coastal shorelines can be ideal, both sandy and rocky shorelines will have their own group of birds.

Almost any interior body of water with a mud flat can be productive.  With water levels typically low in August, mud flats can be common.

Settling ponds around waste-water treatment plants can be very productive.  A few such facilities in the country are managed to provide habitat for both nesting and migrating birds.

Shorebird identification
Identification of shorebirds can be extremely challenging.  Some species, like the Long-billed Curlew are hard to miss.

A group of birds known collectively as “peeps” provide many birders with a real challenge.

It can take years of experience to accurately separate Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers.

See how you can do with these images.

Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers.

Dowitchers. Which is the Long-billed and which is the Short-billed Dowitcher?

 

Baird's and Least Sandpipers

Name the peeps.

 

Long-billed Curlew.

This is an easy one.

Shorebird guides
The very best shorebird guide book is called simply The Shorebird Guide.  It was written by Michael O’Brian, Richard Crossley and Kevin Karlson.  It is available on Amazon for under $20.00.  It is a must-have guide for anyone trying to improve their skills in identifying shorebirds.

The Shorebird App
Birdzilla.com and Keven Karlson (one of the authors of The Shore Bird Guide) combined efforts to produce the Shorebirds of the United States and Canada app.  The app covers 50 species with multiple images of each species.  Kevin provides descriptions of the various plumages of each species.  The app is available for the iPhone and iPad.  Available in the Apple App store.

How far do they go?
Many shorebirds nest in Alaska and northern Canada and migrate amazing distances twice each year, often to South America.

For example, the rufa race of the Red Knot will be leaving its home in the Canadian Arctic to visit its winter home in Argentina or Chile, a distance of up to 9,000 miles.  Then back again next spring.  The Red Knot is not much larger than a robin and has a wingspan of about 20 inches.  It may fly up to 1500 miles at a time before stopping to rest and feed.

Answers:
Dowitchers:  Long-billed Dowitcher is the top image, Short-billed the second image.

Peeps:  Baird’s Sandpiper is the first image, Least Sandpiper the second image.  The Least is the easiest to identify of all the peeps as it is the only one with yellowish legs.

Long-billed Curlew

Credits – images © :
Kevin Karlson
Glenn Bartley
Greg Lavaty
Sam Crowe

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