Shorebirds (Charadriiformes)

Note: Still a work in progress for some time to come... right now I have primarily eastern species on here. For most of these shots you can get the date from the file name of the image by pausing your mouse over the image. In general, winter or basic plumages are at the top and summer/breeding/alternate plumages are at the bottom.

Find a local spot where you can get close and study just a few birds... that way you can get really good at the more common things and have a good reference point when something rarer comes along...

Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)

All winter (basic) plumage except bottom 5.

Note short wing extension compared to American Golden-Plover.

American Golden-Plover (Pluvialis dominica)

The six at the top are newly arrived fall birds in French Guiana.

Note longer wing extension compared to Black-bellied Plover.

Snowy Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)

The darker-backed ones in the bottom row are western breeders.

Wilson's Plover (Charadrius wilsonia)

Bottom two against sand are alternate female, next four up are alternate male. Lowest left is juv.


Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)

Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus)

Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)

Odd-looking leucistic bird at 3R in Cherokee, OK on 20 Mar 1999. Bottom three on left side are juveniles.


American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)

Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)

A couple ID tips: Very active feeder, often chasing prey. In general has bigger bars on flank than Lesser yellowlegs, and a two toned bill.


Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)

At 4L that's a Stilt Sandpiper on the right.

Generally a slower feeder, a picker. Typically different from Greater Yellowlegs which is much more active.


Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)

"Eastern" Willet (Tringa semipalmata semipalmata)

This subspecies breeds on the East and Gulf Coasts, leaves in late summer and winters primarily in South America. The top 4 are all alternate plumage, the only plumage usually seen in North America. 3L is a juvenile in flight.


"Western" Willet (Tringa semipalmata inornatus)

This subspecies breeds in the prairies and spends the winter on the Gulf and East Coasts.
Top shots are basic plumages, bottom 7 shots are of alternate plumage, which is much less darkly patterned than Eastern in alternate.


Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)

Adults in basic at top, eight images, followed by three juvenile images. A selection of alternate plumages at the bottom of the section. The bird at 5L is catching minnows by thrusting his head underwater, and was successful about 1 out of every 4 attempts.


Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

In the lower flight shot, also a Willet and a Ruddy Turnstone.


Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)

Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica)

Fall male molting out of alternate...


Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

Note that two of the shots of roosting birds near the middle have a couple of Purple Sandpipers also.

Red Knot (Calidris canutus)

Sanderling (Calidris alba)

The three pale ones at the bottom are probably in alternate plumage, they may be females or they may just be pale males.



Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)

The ones in the middle with very blue water are all juveniles. Aging of shorebirds is critical to identifying them! Below those are one more juv on the left, then two early fall adults, then all adults in spring in alternate.

A couple extra tips: Has darker face than Western with light eyebrow, often looks "angry."


Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)

Again the bright ones in the middle are juveniles. Two weak alternate plumage shots at the bottom.

Couple tips: arrow shaped spots on flank go farther than SESA. Also more probing during feeding and often in deeper water than SESA.



Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)

Can be the warmest of the peeps, but when worn as in middle shots, very drab.


White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)

These are mostly spring alternate birds. The two at the top are newly arrived fall birds in French Guiana (adult on left and juvenile on right).


Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii)

The shot at 3R is a scan of a slide from Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador, 18 Oct 1998.


Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)

The six at the top are newly arrived fall birds in French Guiana (top two are juvenile and the others are adult).


Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

The wide shot on the upper row is from Tanzania...

Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)



Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)

Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)

Note: All of these photos are from Tanzania in Jan 2005, within the same two week stretch, but look at the variation in leg color..


Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)

Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago delicata)

American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)

Wilson's Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor)

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicaria)

BOOKS There are now a host of dedicated shorebird books for this challenging group. I have listed what I think the current best ones are, starting with the best:
The Shorebird Guide: O'Brien, Crossley, Karlson. Fabulous text, gorgeous photos. North America only.
Shorebirds of North America, Europe and Asia: Chandler. Less text than above, but very good, also great photos, covers area in title.
Any Sibley guide, especially the all of North America one. Concise but great.
Birds of North America: NGS. An oldie but goodie, compared to the newer ones.
Shorebirds of North America, A Photographic Guide: Paulson. Not much text, and not as many photos as the others above, but a good place to start.
Random image of three dark-backed gulls on Little Egg Island Bar, Glynn Co GA, on 01 Oct 2008. The large one in the foreground is a Great Black-backed Gull, and the two smaller ones behind it are both Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but two different subspecies I think. the right hand one is probably L.f.graellsii, and the left hand one may be L.f. intermedius?
I have a page of Tanzanian birds that also has many Old World shorebird species such as this Black-winged Stilt. If you want to view them,

Click here.

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Last updated 11 Sep 2015 About 15 new images added, mostly HUGO... last update for a while
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