Nearshore and Tidal Flats

Least Sandpiper

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Calidris minutilla

Slightly larger than a sparrow, slightly smaller than a Semipalmated Sandpiper.

Least sandpipers are the smallest of the sandpipers known as "peeps". They have distinctive yellow legs and feed along the edge of mudflats or marshes. They often gather in loose flocks and frequently join other species, but they tend to be in smaller groups and feed toward drier edges than other small sandpipers.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Semipalmated Sandpiper

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Calidris pusilla 

Between a sparrow and a robin

A small shorebird with a short neck and small head. The bill is dark and may droop slightly at the tip.  Similar in size to the least sandpiper. 

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Semipalmated Plover

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Charadrius semipalmatus  

Between a sparrow and a robin

A small shorebird with a round head and a stubby bill. They have yellow, moderately long legs and a brown or black band around their neck.

Photo by  Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Spotted Sandpiper

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 Actitis macularius  

Robin sized

Nesting

A medium sized shorebird, their beak is almost as long as their head. Their body tapers to a longish tail. They look as though they are leaning forward.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Sanderling

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Calidris Alba

Robin sized

Sanderlings are small, plump sandpipers with a stout bill about the same length as the head. These and other sandpipers in the genus Calidris are often called “peeps”; Sanderlings are medium-sized members of this group.

Ruddy Turnstone

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Arenaria interpres 

Robin sized (larger than a spotted sandpiper)

These birds are found along rocky shorelines and seen mostly in the spring and fall. Be on the lookout for them at the water’s edge, where the high tide deposits shells, rocks, seaweed, and other debris. At higher tides when there’s less exposed shoreline, look for them in rocky outcrops along the shore.

Photo by Karen Oakes

Purple Sandpiper

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Calidris maritima 

Robin sized

A stout shorebird, the Purple Sandpiper winters along the rocky shores of the Atlantic Coast. Despite its name, it appears mostly slate-gray in winter, with only a faint purplish gloss, and shows no purple at all in breeding plumage. It has a medium length bill that droops at the end.

Photo by John Drury

Dunlin

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Calidris alpina 

Robin sized

Medium sized sandpiper, with a bright reddish back and black belly. The long drooping black bill makes is distinguishable from other similar sized shorebirds.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Lesser Yellowlegs

Tringa flavipes  

Between a robin and a crow

A slender, long-legged shorebird, with a long neck and bill. It often can be seen running through the shallow water to chase its prey. 

Photo by Kirk Gentalen


Killdeer

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Charadrius vociferus  

Robin sized but with longer legs and wings

A medium sized shorebird you can see without going to the beach. Spot them as they run across lawns or parking lots. Killdeer have the characteristic large, round head, large eye, and short bill of all plovers. They are especially slender and lanky, with a long, pointed tail and long wings.

Photo by Karen Oakes

Wilson's Snipe

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  Gallinago delicata

About the size of a Killdeer, but heavier-bodied and less lanky

Though the long tradition of “snipe hunt” pranks at summer camp has convinced many people otherwise, Wilson’s Snipes aren’t made-up creatures. These plump, long-billed birds are among the most widespread shorebirds in North America. They can be tough to see thanks to their cryptic brown and buff coloration and secretive nature. But in summer they often stand on fence posts or take to the sky with a fast, zigzagging flight and an unusual “winnowing” sound made with the tail.

Photo by Rick Morgan

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Short-billed Dowitcher

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Limnodromus griseus

Robin sized

A common and conspicuous migrant that uses a "sewing-machine" method of foraging across the mud flats. Its long bill is short only in comparison with the very similar Long-billed Dowitcher. 

Photo by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Black-bellied Plover

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Pluvialis squatarola  

Between a robin and a crow

A medium to large shorebird of coastal beaches, the Blackbellied Plover is striking in its black-and-white breeding plumage. It is the largest plover in North America and can be found along the coasts in winter northward to Massachusetts and British Columbia. 

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Greater Yellowlegs

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Tringa melanoleuca 

Between a robin and a crow

A common, tall, long-legged shorebird of freshwater ponds and tidal marshes. The Greater Yellowlegs frequently announces its presence by its piercing alarm calls. 

Photo by Kerry Hardy

Snowy Egret

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Egretta thula

Between a crow and a goose, smaller than a great egret

These are medium-sized herons with long, thin legs and long, slender, bills. Their long, thin neck sets the small head well away from the body.

Photo by Kirk Gentalen

Great Egret

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 Ardea alba 

Goose sized or large, smaller than a great blue heron

Great Egrets wade in shallow water (both fresh and salt) to hunt fish, frogs, and other small aquatic animals. They typically stand still and watch for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Then, with startling speed, the egrets strike with a jab of their long neck and bill.

Great Blue Heron

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Ardea herodias

Goose sized or larger

Hunting Great Blue Herons wade slowly or stand statue-like, stalking fish and other prey in shallow water or open fields. Watch for the lightning-fast thrust of the neck and head as they stab with their strong bills. Their very slow wingbeats, tucked-in neck and trailing legs create an unmistakable image in flight. Year-Round. 

Photo by Karen Oakes