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Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)

Posted on Sep 6, 2016

Fall shorebirding can be very rewarding in a number of diverse habitats including farm fields, parking lots with pools of water, muddy pastures, grasslands, beaches, and rocky shorelines. Whether they are foraging, preening, or roosting there are always good chances to examine shorebirds for prolonged periods. That does not mean the task of identifying them will be easy! For every readily identifiable bird like the American Oystercatcher there seem to be a few difficult to discern species. The juvenile Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri), as seen below and photographed in late August, can be one such example. It is the leftmost bird in the first two photos and second from the left in the third shot.

Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)-2763

Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)-2765

Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)-2769

This bird was in the company of Semipalmated Sandpipers, a very similar species, and Semipalmated Plovers, one of which can be seen out of focus closer to my position in the second photo. You can see the infamous rufous-edged upper scapulars contrasting greatly with the generally pale, light and gray look of the bird otherwise, even in comparison to the Semis. The bill usually stands out to me the most with the Western showing a slightly longer, noticeably thicker one, both at the base and throughout the length, which is obvious when looking at these Semis. The Western’s head and neck are a bit larger, and the feathering looks more defined with the “scaly” appearance being very crisp.

All of that is certainly much easier to sit down and write out at a desk with photos of a bird instead of peering through a scope and making notes while holding your Peterson Field Guide as it is moving around in a flock of birds on a windy or rainy day. Nevertheless, that is all part of the joy of birding, isn’t it?

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator