Long-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus scolopaceus

A long-billed shorebird recognizable for both its distinctive profile and sewing machine-like feeding action, the Long-billed Dowitcher is most common west of the Mississippi.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • Most Siberian breeding Long-billed Dowitchers likely migrate to the Americas during the winter.
  • Although both sexes share incubation of the eggs, only the male takes care of the young once they hatch.
  • A group of sandpipers has many collective nouns, including a "bind", "contradiction", "fling", "hill", and "time-step" of sandpipers.
  • Their bills are full of nerve endings, which are useful for sensing prey. They walk along slowly, lifting their heads up and down like a sewing machine.


Adult Description

  • Medium-sized shorebird.
  • Bill twice as long as head.
  • Moderately long, pale legs.

Immature Description

Juvenal plumage with brownish gray chest and flanks, less spotting and barring than breeding adults. Back feathers dark centered with broad buffy edges, giving a slightly scaly appearance. Tertials dark grayish with narrow rusty edges.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Scolopacidae
Genus: Limnodromus
Species: Limnodromus scolopaceus
Flight call a sharp "peep," or quick series of two to five notes, "pee-p-p-pep."

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 28-32 cm (11-12.5 in)
  • Weight: 99 g (3.5 oz)
  • Size: Medium (9 - 16 in)
  • Color Primary: Brown, Rufous or Rust
  • Underparts: Rust-brown with black bars.
  • Upperparts: Black, gray-brown and rust-brown, appearing scaled.
  • Back Pattern: Striped or streaked, Mottled
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Scaled or Scalloped
  • Bill Shape: Dagger
  • Eye Color: Dark brown.
  • Head Pattern: Eyeline, Capped, Striped, Streaked, Eyering
  • Crown Color: Brown
  • Forehead Color: Brown
  • Nape Color: Pale brown and brown speckled.
  • Throat Color: Pale brown and brown speckled.
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Swift direct flight with rapid wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 46-51 cm (18-20 in)
  • Wing Shape: Pointed-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Squared Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Barred
  • Upper Tail: Rust with gray and black bars.
  • Under Tail: Rust with gray and black bars.
  • Leg Color: Yellow-green
  • Breeding Location: Tundra
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Small colonies
  • Breeding Population: Common to uncommon
  • Egg Color: Brown to olive with brown and gray blotches
  • Number of Eggs: 4
  • Incubation Days: 20
  • Egg Incubator: Both sexes
  • Nest Material: Lined with grasses and moss.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Downy chicks able to walk immediately, leave nest when all are hatched. Not fed by parents.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Bécassin à long bec (French)
  • Costurero pico largo (Spanish)
  • Wilson's Snipe has similar proportions, but has dark rump and tail and golden stripes down back.
  • Stilt Sandpiper has longer legs, a shorter, slightly down-curved bill, and a white rump that does not extend up the back.
  • Short-billed Dowitcher is extremely similar and difficult to distinguish in most plumages. Voice is best character to distinguish adults. Juvenile short-billed has tiger-striped tertials instead of plain gray ones.

Conservation Status

Populations seem to be stable or increasing.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Found on mudflats, marshes, and edges of freshwater ponds and marshes during winter.
  • Takekawa, J. Y., and N. Warnock. 2000. Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus). In The Birds of North America, No. 493 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Aquatic invertebrates and insects.
Probes deeply into soft substances to the depth of the bill, sometimes submerging the head. Short jabbing and probing in distinctive "sewing machine" motion.

Adult Sexes Similar

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Additional Photos & Video

Adult Sexes Similar

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All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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