Sandpipers, Phalaropes, and Allies

Black-necked Stilt

Black-necked stilt, photo by Frank Schulenburg

Look for The black-necked stilt is a tall shorebird with a narrow body, long neck, long, pink, spindly legs, and a black, needle-shaped bill. Its head, nape, back, and upper wings are all black. This contrasts with the white on the lower half of its face as well as on its throat, belly, and tail… Read more

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary sandpiper, photo by Andrew Reago and Chrissy McClarren via Wiki Commons

Look For The solitary sandpiper is a medium-sized shorebird with a dagger-shaped bill and lanky greenish-yellow legs. Its upperparts are a dark brown with heavy white spotting throughout. Its underparts are white with light brown streaking on its neck and flanks. Its tail has dark brown down the center with black and white barred edges… Read more

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Look For The spotted sandpiper is one of the easiest sandpipers to identify. Not only are its markings distinctive, but also are its mannerisms—the bird species signals itself to birders by almost constantly bobbing its rear end. The thrush-like breast spotting of breeding adult spotted sandpipers sets them apart from other sandpipers, but you can… Read more

Wilson’s Phalarope

Wilson's phalarope

Look For Wilson’s phalarope, a member of the sandpiper family, is the largest of the three phalarope species. Distinguishing characteristics of Wilson’s phalarope include a very thin, straight bill; gray wings; poorly defined facial markings in nonbreeding plumage; and a pronounced white rump. In breeding plumage, both sexes have dark lines extending from their eyes… Read more

American Avocet

Lousiana birding in winter? You may spot an American avocet. Photo by Kyle Carlsen

Look For The graceful curves of the American avocet’s bill and neck serve it well as it feeds while walking along, sweeping the bill back and forth in shallow water. In spring and summer, adults have rusty heads and necks. In winter, the heads are gray. Black wings are divided by white. Listen For A… Read more


An adult willet stands on a beach.

What Does a Willet Look Like? Anyone coming upon a willet standing on a winter beach may be excused for thinking it a dull bird. It seems to be without distinguishing characteristics, a brown-and-white wallflower among better-dressed kin. But then it opens its wings, and you see that there is more to this bird than… Read more


Sanderling photo by Ianare Sevi / Wikimedia Commons

What Does a Sanderling Look Like? The sanderling is the sandpiper most often encountered near where the waves crash. To make a safe identification of an adult sanderling outside of spring, note what the sanderling does not have: streaks, spots, or brown markings. Adults are smooth and silvery above and clear white below. Often, a… Read more

Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy turnstone in breeding plumage. Photo by Bill Thompson, III

Look For From April through September, the ruddy turnstone has a zebra-striped face and breast and rusty (or ruddy) wings. The rest of the year, the bird wears a much-faded version of this plumage. Its short legs remain orange year-round. Listen For A ternlike klew! alarm call, plus an unmusical chatter, kkkkkkkrrrkkkkkrr. Remember Even in its dull winter… Read more

Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs (Photo: Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Look For Greater yellowlegs are larger than lesser yellowlegs, but size can be hard to judge unless both species are side by side. Greaters also have a longer, thicker bill, especially at the base, that is often two-tone. Lessers appear delicate in every way, including the all-dark needle-thin bill. Both have long, bright yellow legs… Read more

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