Long-billed Dowitcher - 24 April 2010

10th Road East, near Vinemount, on Escarpment between Stoney Creek and Grimsby, Ontario

Andrew Don found it and Brandon Holden texted me to let me know.

This Long-billed Dowitcher is molting into alternate (breeding) plumage. It is heavily spotted across the neck changing to bars on the sides of the breast. The cinnamon will extend to the undertail coverts as the molt progresses. Narrow white bars on the tail are typical of Long-billed, but are also found on the eastern nominate Short-billed subspecies griseus, except it usually has a white belly. Best to use a suite of characters to identify dowitchers. The relatively short bill suggests that it is a male. Generally a dowitcher seen in Ontario before May is a Long-billed, but always confirm by field marks or calls.


Note heavy spotting across the neck and extensive rufous extending well down the belly. This combination is rare in Short-billed Dowitchers. The lack of spots on the belly is also a strong indication of a Long-billed. Note scattered gray basic (winter) feathers of this bird in active body molt.


Note the well-formed black bars with white fringes on the side of the breast below the bend in the wing. The prominent lower white eyering of even width is a supporting feature of Long-billed. The semicircle eyering is not diagnostic, but it is normally not as pronounced on Short-billed Dowitchers. Note: the illustrations and text in recent editions of the National Geographic Guide are the best for identifying Long-billed Dowitcher and the subspecies of the Short-billed Dowitcher.


Links to Long-billed Dowitchers in Ontario


Long-billed Dowitcher at Hillman Shorebird Cell in May 2009