Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Dowitcher, but Which One?
Yesterday I posted the photo above and labeled it as a Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus). I also posted the photo to our Montana birding group site with the same ID. This morning I received a note from my friend Dan Casey concerning my ID. He thought it might be a Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus hendersoni), a subspecies most likely on the prairies and most similar to Long-billed Dowitchers. I have to confess that I hate trying to ID fall dowitchers and defaulted to Long-billed after a quick glance and my interpretation of the overall shape as being more rounded. I have paraphrased Dan's comments below:
Subtle but apparent "kink" to the outward third of the bill.
Distinctly spotted breast sides.
Relatively few "breeding" wing coverts.
It is a bit sparsly marked on the flanks for a Short-billed Dowitcher but I think the other features outweigh that, and hendersoni should have the least here anyway.
What little we see of the tail is inconclusive, but may indicate that the white bars are equal in width to the black bars, tipping slightly towards Short-billed.
I also received comments on the bird from Caleb Putnam too. Caleb thought that this was a tricky individual to ID, but was leaning towards a Short-billed Dowitcher as well.
Both Dan and Caleb asked if I had more photos and I have added a number of them below (click on the photos to get a larger version). There were about 20 individuals on the reservoir that morning and I am not sure if any of the new photos show the individual Dan and Caleb commented on.
If you have any comments on the identification of these dowitchers I would appreciate hearing them.
A few of the group of dowitchers and a few other species.
Photo 2 ( a bit blurry but may still helpful)
Photo 5 (same bird as photo 4).
Photo 7 (same bird as in photo 6).
I will readily admit that I struggle with identifying these species and I am trying to get better so any help on the ID of these birds is appreciated.