Short-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus griseus

A medium to large shorebird with a long bill, the Short-billed Dowitcher is a common and conspicous 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.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The nest and eggs of this species eluded discovery until 1906, and even that information was overlooked for a long while because they were attributed to the Long-billed Dowitcher. The nesting grounds of the eastern race were not discovered until the late 1950s.
  • Although both sexes share incubation of the eggs, only the male takes care of the young once they hatch.
  • Until 1950, the Short-billed Dowitcher and Long-billed Dowitcher were considered to be one species.
  • The name of this bird can be somewhat misleading, as its bill is only short in comparison with the Long-billed Dowitcher.A group of sandpipers has many collective nouns, including a "bind", "contradiction", "fling", "hill", and "time-step" of sandpipers.


Adult Description

  • A medium-sized shorebird with a bill twice as long as its head.
  • Moderately long, pale legs.

Immature Description

Juvenal plumage with buffy 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 with orange pattern inside ("tiger-striped").
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 griseus
  • Limnodromus griseus caurinus
  • Limnodromus griseus griseus
  • Limnodromus griseus hendersoni
Flight call a melodic "tu" repeated up to four times.

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 27-30 cm (10.5-12 in)
  • Weight: 108 g (3.8 oz)
  • Size: Medium (9 - 16 in)
  • Color Primary: Brown
  • Underparts: Pale rust-brown with heavy brown spots and bars.
  • Upperparts: Brown-black feathers with pale brown edges.
  • Back Pattern: Striped or streaked
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Spotted or speckled, Solid
  • Bill Shape: Dagger
  • Eye Color: Dark brown.
  • Head Pattern: Eyeline, Capped, Striped, Streaked, Eyering
  • Crown Color: Black with fine pale brown stripes.
  • Forehead Color: Pale brown and black.
  • Nape Color: Brown
  • Throat Color: Pale rust-brown.
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: Strong powerful direct flight.
  • Wingspan Range: 46-56 cm (18-22 in)
  • Wing Shape: Tapered-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Squared Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Barred
  • Upper Tail: Brown and white bars.
  • Under Tail: Brown and white.
  • Leg Color: Gray-green
  • Breeding Location: Seashore, rocky or sandy, Marshes, freshwater, Swamps, Grasslands
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Colonial
  • Breeding Population:
  • Egg Color: Buff green or brown with brown speckles
  • Number of Eggs: 4
  • Incubation Days: 21
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Sticks, leaves, and grasses.
  • Migration: Migratory
  • Condition at Hatching: Downy chicks able to walk immediately, can swim as soon as they are dry. Leave nest when all are hatched. Not fed by parents.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Bécassin roux (French)
  • Agijeta gris, Costurero pico corto (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.
  • Long-billed Dowitcher is extremely similar and difficult to distinguish in most plumages. Juvenile long-billed lacks the tiger-striping in the tertials, and has plain gray ones instead.

Conservation Status

No special status.




Sources used to Construct this Page:

  • Breeds in muskegs of taiga to timberline, and barely onto subarctic tundra.
  • Winters on coastal mud flats and brackish lagoons.
  • In migration prefers saltwater tidal flats, beaches, and salt marshes.
  • Found in freshwater mud flats and flooded agricultural fields.
  • Jehl, J. R., Jr., J. Klima, and R. E. Harris. Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus). In The Birds of North America, No. 564 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Aquatic invertebrates. On breeding grounds eats fly larvae, other insects, snails, and some seeds.
Male sings in flight on breeding grounds.Probes deeply into soft substances to the depth of the bill, sometimes submerging the head. Food is captured and swallowed under the mud, except for worms, which are pulled to the surface. Feeds in water up to the depth of the belly.

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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