Alright, I admit I have no freakin’ clue how to tell apart Short-billed Dowitchers vs. Long-billed Dowitchers. I DID find this great website:
More info than you can shake a stick at! But I’m still not sure that it helps me. Given that I live in South Dakota, where we’re much, much more likely to find Long-billed Dowitchers, I have pretty much always called Dowitchers I take photos of here Long-billed Dowitchers. But over the years, I also have no doubt I’ve seen, if not photographed, Short-billed Dowitchers.
So, tonight I was birding around Newton Hills State Park, and came across a group of 15 Dowitchers. Long- or Short-billed? Check out the photo above. What are they? All Long-billed? A mix? Bill length, as expected, is one of the ID marks in the SurfBirds article above. Check out the 2 birds with an “A” by them. The one on the left has a much longer billl than the one on the right. Leg length is supposed to be another mark, with Long-billed Dowitchers having longer bills. Again check out the birds labeled “A”. The one on the right has the water reach his belly, while the birds right around him have leg showing. Same for the one bird in the back by the “B”, where one bird has water reaching the belly, and the other two don’t.
The SurfBird site has many more ID keys, such as a supposedly straighter supercillium on the Long-billed, but even on their example images I find that hard to see. Plumage differences and shape differences are noted there as well. Any thoughts out there? What are the Dowitchers in this photo?