Short-billed Dowitcher Life History


Habitat Marshes

  • Breeds in muskegs of taiga to timberline, and barely onto subarctic tundra.
  • Winters on coastal mud flats and brackish lagoons.
  • In migration prefers saltwater tidal flats, beaches, and salt marshes.
  • Found in freshwater mud flats and flooded agricultural fields.
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Food Aquatic invertebratesAquatic invertebrates. On breeding grounds eats fly larvae, other insects, snails, and some seeds.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

Nest a simple bowl in thick vegetation, usually on top of a clump of sedge, lined with dried grass, leaves, twigs, and ptarmigan feathers.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:4 eggs
Egg Description:Light greenish-brown or live green with brown spotting of various intensity, always denser at the large end.
Condition at Hatching:Downy chicks able to walk immediately, can swim as soon as they are dry. Leave nest when all are hatched. Not fed by parents.
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Behavior ProbingMale sings in flight on breeding grounds.Probes deeply into soft substances to the depth of the bill, sometimes submerging the head. Food is captured and swallowed under the mud, except for worms, which are pulled to the surface. Feeds in water up to the depth of the belly.Back to top


Conservation DecliningThere is little information on Short-billed Dowitcher population trends. A 2012 study found no updated information, and so the latest population estimate is from 2006. At that time the North American breeding population was estimated to be 153,000 birds. After declines in the 1990s and 2000s, it appears that numbers are now similar to counts done in the 1980s. Three subspecies of Short-billed Dowitcher breed in North America. Overall, central and eastern populations appear stable, with the exception of ongoing declines since the 1970s in Ontario. It is not clear what population trends are in western populations. Short-billed Dowitcher is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. Back to top


Andres, B. A., P. A. Smith, R. I. G. Morrison, C. L. Gratto-Trevor, S. C. Brown and C. A. Friis. 2012a. Population estimates of North American shorebirds, 2012. Wader Study Group Bulletin no. 119 (3):178-194.

Jehl Jr., Joseph R., Joanna Klima and Ross E. Harris. 2001. Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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