August 2019

Vol. 47, No. 4

At a Glance: June 2019 Revealed

Wayne R. Petersen

Wayne R. Petersen

There are groups of birds that some birders try to avoid because they don't enjoy looking at them, feel they are too difficult to identify, or don't get to see them often enough to become familiar with them. In no particular order these groups include female ducks, jaegers, shorebirds, gulls, immature hummingbirds, small flycatchers, and certain fall warblers. Even though most birders seem to have problematic or nemesis species earmarked in their field guide, with a little practice most birds or species groups are usually not as difficult as they are often perceived to be.

Shorebirds regularly appear high on the above roster of species thought to be difficult to distinguish. Even acknowledging that individual perception often translates to personal reality, many shorebirds are not too tedious to identify in the field once a few basic facts are learned. Most readers will realize that this issue's mystery species includes shorebirds of two different species, with plovers and sandpipers representing two possibilities. Plovers (Family Charadriidae) characteristically have short, stout bills; tend to have short necks and somewhat angular heads; often have banded underparts; and seldom forage by wading. By contrast, many sandpipers (Family Scolopacidae) have slim, pointed bills that are variably straight or curved; have rounder, less angular heads than plovers; and often forage by wading in shallow water. Thus, the long legs, slim pointed bills, and wading behavior of the pictured birds suggest that they are sandpipers rather than plovers.

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