Return to Main Page   Dakota Birder Blog    

Short-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus griseus

Length: 11 to 12 inches Wingspan: 18 to 22 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Long dark bill, dark brownish above with buffy feather edges, pale orange or white below.  Very similar to Long-billed Dowitcher.

Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseusThe Short-billed Dowitcher is nearly identical in appearance to its cousin, the Long-billed Dowitcher.  The Short-billed strongly prefers coastal habitats in most seasons, however, while the Long-billed prefers fresh-water habitats.  Some Short-billed Dowitchers do migrate through the interior of the continent, but they are not nearly as common in South Dakota as the Long-billed Dowitcher.  Differences in call are a reliable way to tell the two species apart.

Habitat: During breeding season, uses marshes, bogs, and lake edges in the northern conifer forests of Canada and Alaska.  During migration and winter, they strongly prefer saltwater coastal habitats, although some may migrate through the interior of the continent.

Diet: Diet varies with season, but includes insects and insect larvae, mollusks, crustaceans, marine worms, and the seeds of aquatic plants.  May feed heavily on horseshoe crab eggs during migration.

Behavior: Uses its bill to probe in soft mud for food, usually while wading in shallow water, although sometimes on mud flats.

Breeding Map: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Generally silent, a mellow tu-tu-tu when flushed. 

Migration: Summers in central and western Canada, and southern Alaska.  Winters along coasts of the southern half of the U.S., and points south.

Interactive eBird map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Short-billed Dowitcher sightings

Similar Species: Long-billed Dowitcher, Wilson's Snipe

Conservation Status: Generally common throughout its normal range, with populations stable in many areas. While overall population declines are evidently occurring, the IUCN considers the Short-billed Dowitcher to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) WhatBird - Short-billed Dowitcher

2) BirdWeb - Short-billed Dowitcher

3) Audubon Guide - Short-billed Dowitcher

Photo Information: Photo from Ohio, courtesy of Lana Hays


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Short-billed Dowitcher - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant in the eastern part of the state, rare in the west.

Additional Short-billed Dowitcher Photos
 Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus