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Shorebirds  
 

Many shorebirds are strong flyers. Most of them travel thousands of miles a year, flying between South America and Alaska or Canada. During the spring and late summer, migrating shorebirds are usually seen resting and feeding on Puget Sound beaches.

Shorebirds in flight. Photo by Bill Yake.
Photo by Bill Yake.

Mudflats in estuaries, some of the most productive habitats in the world, provide acres of crustaceans and invertebrates - prime snacks for shorebirds.

Shorebirds probing mudflats. Photo by Greg Pelletier.  
Black­bellied Plover
Pluvialis squatarola  
 
Black-bellied Plovers are common spring and fall migrants along Puget Sound. They can also be seen feeding on mud flats in the winter with Dunlin. The Black-bellied Plover uses a short strong bill to crack and eat small mollusks and insects on the surface of the beach. It may also probe deeper into sediments for polychaete worms and small bivalves.
 
Lesser Yellowlegs
Tringa flavipes  
 
The Lesser Yellowlegs is a common migrant along Puget Sound, stopping to feed on protected shores, estuaries, and mud flats. It breeds in Canada and Alaska's northern boreal forests. It then migrates south for the winter on to the southern reaches of the hemisphere.  
 
An active feeder, the Lesser Yellowlegs nimbly wades through shallow waters, sweeping the top two inches of water for tiny fish and tadpoles. Lesser Yellowlegs. Photo by Greg Pelletier.
Black Oystercatcher
Haematopus bachmani  
 
The Black Oystercatcher can be found year round on rocky shores along the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the San Juan Islands. With a sturdy red bill, it stabs mussels, and chisels chitons and limpets from rocks.
Black Oystercatchers at Rosario Beach. Photo by John Loftus.
Photo by John Loftus.

Black Oystercatchers often nest on islands, from rock clusters to large forested land masses. Nests are located on the open beach, sometimes surrounded by plant material. Both parents incubate and feed the young.

Killdeer
Charadrius vociferus  
 
The killdeer can be seen year round on marshes, mudflats, and beaches along Puget Sound. The short-billed killdeer patters along the beach surface, feeding on crustaceans, mollusks, marine worms, and insects. Killdeer on Nisqually mudflat. Photo by Greg Pelletier.

Killdeer nests are often placed on open areas such as gravel beaches, lawns, and stony stream banks. Killdeer adults will feign a broken wing to distract predators from eggs. If you see a killdeer dragging a wing, watch your step! Killdeer eggs blend in well with the open ground.

Shorebirds Need Space

Shorebirds are losing space; wetlands are being filled, beaches are being altered and polluted, and some shores are crowded with human visitors. Shorebirds are finding fewer places for nesting, feeding, and resting. Beach visitors can help by keeping a distance from shorebirds.

Related Links

Lesser Yellowlegs, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Lesser Yellowlegs identification and animated range map.

Black Oystercatcher, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Black Oystercatcher identification and animated range map.

Black-bellied Plover, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Black-bellied Plover identification and animated range map.

The Shorebird Watcher, General information on shorebirds.
Reports on shorebird migration, sightings, field guides, etc. 

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