Friday, September 4, 2015

Gilbert Water Ranch: American Avocet, Long-billed Dowitcher and Black-necked Stilt

[Gilbert, AZ. August 2015]

The birding landscape is a feathered garden that never stops blooming. Spring migrants are followed by summer breeders; Winter arrivals like Snow Buntings and Snowy Owls, succeed Fall departees such as sandpipers and other shorebirds. A succession of perennial delights await the birder who is in tune with the birding calendar of events.

After observing warblers and flycatchers in SEAZ, a flash birding excursion to Central Arizona (Phoenix area) in late Summer provided an opportunity to relish some choice shorebird species and a bonus mimid.

There are just 4 species of Avocet on the Planet -- two are found in the New World -- and one, the American Avocet can be found in the US:




The American Avocet is an elegant shorebird and one that is instantly recognizable thanks to its decurved bill.





Both sexes look alike -- gaining a rusty wash on their head and neck in Summer; the best way to tell them apart is bill curvature -- more pronounced in the female than the male.

This distinctive shorebird is found mainly in the Western US but is an over-winterer in Florida and Texas.

Stilts belong to the same family as Avocets and there are 6 Stilt species found all over the world. Black-necked Stilt, like its name implies, is an extremely long legged shorebird found in both South and North America:


Stilts have the longest legs in relation to their body size of any bird except flamingos.

Next, Long-billed Dowitcher is generally more common in the Western US (seen in this Blog at Bolsa Chica and in Texas). However, in Winter, it is found in parts of the Southern US, including Florida, but in freshwater habitat. Contrast with Short-billed Dowitcher which prefers beach mudflats and is happy in saline conditions.


Bonus bird: 

While walking around Gilbert Water Ranch in 110 degree heat, this distinctive mimid was spied:



Curve-billed Thrasher is the most common thrasher of the Southwest; for example, seen here in Arizona; or, here in Texas.



In testament to the opening metaphor of this post: "The birding landscape is a feathered garden that never stops blooming" -- the avid "gardener" will find reward in every season and location -- as evinced by this selection of uniquely American species.

1 comment:

  1. With both Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitchers seen side by side, I suspect I would have trepidation in distinguishing them from one another in their overlapping range, Hemant. The middle photo of the Curve-billed Thrasher is a spectacular highlight of the "feathered garden." A very entertaining article as always.

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