Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shorebird Identification Tips-Part 2 of 4

There are many identification challenges when identifying shorebirds. I will start by describing the identifying features of the large and small Plovers. These two groups include Black-bellied, American-golden, Piping, Snowy, Wilson’s, and Semipalmated Plover. The large plovers (Black-bellied and American-golden) are easily separated from the rest and for most of the year are very different from each other. In almost every case the American-golden Plover has a much warmer tone overall. Sometimes the best way to identify these two birds is by wing length and bill size. The American Golden-Plover has longer wings that project beyond the tail and has a smaller, thinner bill. In many instances you need to use all of these characteristics to be sure of the identification.

Wilson's Plover

The smaller Plovers are one of the easier groups of shorebirds to identify. The Piping, Wilson’s, and Snowy Plovers frequent more sandy areas and the Semipalmated Plover frequent mudflats; but all of these can be found in both areas. The Piping Plover has yellow legs, and a very short stubby bill to separate it from the Snowy Plover. The Piping and the Snowy Plovers are very pale overall, which comes in very useful when identifying these Plovers. The Wilson’s Plover has a big bill and a dark brown back. It also has a thick dark brown band across the chest. The Snowy and Piping Plovers have much thinner bands across their chests. The Semipalmated Plover has yellow legs and always has yellow in its bill. This Plover has a darker back then the other Plovers, and is much more widespread throughout North America. So for most people the Semipalmated Plover will be the most common small plover.

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