JAMESTOWN, Pa.– Our visit to Miller Ponds in Pymatuning State Park was on a cold, rainy, and cloudy day. Days like this with a dark overcast and wet feathers make it difficult to identify birds. We were fortunate to see many birds at Pymatuning that we had never seen or even heard of before, such as the Short-billed Dowitcher.
This species of shorebird is about half the size of a Sandpiper, with long legs and a fairly long bill. There were three or four of them in the mud searching for insects, which is their primary diet. Luckily, they remained there the whole time we were at the pond. If they hadn’t, we might have recorded that we saw Long-billed Dowitchers. We spent a great deal of time observing these little shorebirds and trying to decide which Dowitcher they were. It took us a while to come to the conclusion that the bill wasn’t quite long enough for them to be Long-billed Dowitchers. Bill length is one of the only ways to distinguish these two types of Dowtichers from each other.
Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers are both migrants here. They winter in Central and South America and breed in parts of Canada and Alaska. Short-billed Dowitchers breed more inland than Long-billed Dowitchers though, and are less likely to be seen migrating through Pennsylvania.
Written by Katie Nicholson, Tweetspeak correspondent