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Short-billed Dowitcher


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A medium to large shorebird with a long bill, the Short-billed Dowitcher is a common and conspicous migrant that uses a "sewing-machine" method of foraging across the mud flats. Its long bill is short only in comparison with the very similar Long-billed Dowitcher.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
9.8–11.4 in
25–29 cm
3.2–4.2 oz
90–120 g
Other Names
  • Bécassin roux (French)
  • Agijeta gris, Costurero pico corto (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The nest and eggs of this species eluded discovery until 1906, and even that information was overlooked for a long while because they were attributed to the Long-billed Dowitcher. The nesting grounds of the eastern race were not discovered until the late 1950s.
  • Although both sexes share incubation of the eggs, only the male takes care of the young once they hatch.
  • The oldest recorded Short-billed Dowitcher was at least 13 years, 11 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Delaware.



  • 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.



Aquatic invertebrates. On breeding grounds eats fly larvae, other insects, snails, and some seeds.


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.
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.

Nest Placement




Male 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.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There 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.


  • Jehl, J. R., Jr., J. Klima, and R. E. Harris. Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus). In The Birds of North America, No. 564 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
  • Andres, B.A., P.A. Smith, R.I.G. Morrison, C.L. Gratto-Trevor, S.C. Brown, and C.A. Friis. 2012. Population estimates of North American Shorebirds, 2012. Wader Study Group Bulletin 119:178–194. Available from the U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan website.
  • North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2014. State of the Birds 2014 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, DC.
  • USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2015. Longevity records of North American Birds.

Range Map Help

Short-billed Dowitcher Range Map
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