23-B-2017 Short-billed Dowitcher

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
7-0
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
Amy Silver
OTHER OBSERVERS
none with me at the time but Jay Carlisle, Heidi Ware, Bryce Robinson, RL Rowland, and many others on other days
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
Blacks Creek Bird Reserve, Ada County
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
east end of reservoir in the mud along the water’s edge
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
windy, light rain
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, during the observation
Yes, later the same day
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
Sibley and Nat Geo apps, BNA Online, Kaufman Advanced Birding
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
When I first stumbled upon the bird (< 5 meters away), it hunkered down in the vegetation, and just watched me. It was in bad shape – scruffy, missing feathers, oily, slow-moving, etc. I went back later that day with a camera to try to refind it. The bill seemed short for a dowitcher, but the feathers were so slick with oil, it was difficult to see plumage details. The white stripes in the tail did appear thicker than the black ones, but when I left that evening, I was unsure of the ID and reported it to eBird as short-billed/long-billed dowitcher. I had snapped a few pictures, though, and began asking around. Three days later, I was able to relocate the bird in the same general area.

This time it was moving around much more and vocalized a few times. Its last call was the slightly descending “tu tu tu” flight call described as the “three note call” in the Sibley app -- resembling the lesser yellowlegs. To be sure, I listened to as many long-billed dowitcher recorded sounds as I could find, but didn’t hear anything comparable.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
The bird was unwell, and spent most of the time standing still -- away from the water. Occasionally, it flew short distances (3-4 times), fed, and vocalized 4-5 times.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
Since I was wondering about the possibility of a short-billed dowitcher (and since several people weighed in suggesting it could be after I’d shared photos), when I relocated it later in the week, I stayed with the bird for as long as I could, waiting for a distinguishable sound. After a few different calls, it finally flew, making the “tu tu tu” call. The next morning, I went back, and when the bird first flew in, it made the same distinctive call.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
The legs were too long for a snipe, and the white wedge on the back (visible in flight) ruled it out as well. The melodic “tu tu tu” vocalization didn’t fit for long-billed dowitcher. Also pointing to SBDO was the extensive white in the tail, relatively short bill, and spotting on the sides changing into barring further down on the flank. (But this last bit was difficult for me to see with confidence due to the oily messed-up feathers.) Other observers got better photos.
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I suppose I have seen large numbers of these mixed in with LBDO on the on the Texas coast in winter, but never tried to visually distinguish the two.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
10 years in Washington, Texas & Idaho, mostly interested in sounds/songs, new to shorebirds
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (If any)
(first seen 6/5), went back multiple times

better shots were taken by others later that day.
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
Photo
SUPPORTING IMAGES

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Cliff Weisse
Accept

Description and photos support the identification of Short-billed Dowitcher.

Shirley Sturts
Accept

well described - hearing and describing the vocalization convinced me along with other field marks noted.

Carl Lundblad
Accept

Looks good, structurally; more slender and less potato-shaped than LBDO with a bill that is obviously kinked about a third of the way from the end and shorter than most if not all LBDO. Plumage wise, the tail pattern (preponderance of thick white barring), broad pale supercillium, golden edged/barred mantle/scapular feathers, and spotted (not barred) underparts/flanks all strongly supports short-billed. In fact the golden color on the mantle and the distinct spots on the flanks suggest an eastern ssp. "hendersonii" SBDO. Finally, the flight calls described by Amy are diagnostic of short-billed and not long-billed. Nicely documented.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

Call note description very helpful to go along with whiter tail, etc.

Dave Trochlell
Accept

The bird's spotted flanks and call appear to confirm the identification as a Short-billed Dowitcher. Could this be the hendersoni subspecies?

Darren Clark
Accept

description and photographs are good.

Doug Ward
Accept

Description of this bird’s alarm call (“tu tu tu”), discussion of flank spotting vs barring, and size of white bars in the tail all point to this being a good, probably “Central/Henderson’s” Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus hendersoni). The photos indicate the poor health of this bird, but still show distinguishing marks, particularly retrices patterning and flank spotting. In addition, this bird has the “look” about the head that Short-billeds show.