Living Bird Magazine
Wintering flocks of Long-billed Dowitchers are muddy gray-brown birds that match their muddy foraging sites—a far cry from the intricate black, rufous, brown, and gold brocade of breeding birds on their tundra summer homes. These tubby, long-billed shorebirds plunge their bills deep into wet mud or sand to find invertebrate food. Flocks twitter at each other while feeding—a habit that sets them apart from the otherwise very similar Short-billed Dowitcher. In northern Alaska and Siberia, males court females with effervescent song flights.More ID Info
Finding dowitchers is a matter of seasonal timing and finding wetlands with the right water level—about 3 inches deep or less. Checking freshwater ponds, impoundments, reservoir edges, sewage treatment facilities, and the like will usually produce a few dowitchers in season—just check eBird bar charts to know when they pass through your area. Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers are extremely similar: the best clues are voice. If they are calling from the ground as they feed, or if you hear the diagnostic keek! call, they are Long-billed. Long-billed Dowitchers also tend to be seen more often in freshwater than in saltwater habitats.
The Cornell Lab will send you updates about birds, birding, and opportunities to help bird conservation.