Shorebird Migration

Shorebirds are beginning to migrate through the area as they move from their breeding grounds further north. Plum Island, at the mouth of the Merrimack River, is a popular stopover. This Whimbrel was foraging at the southern shore of the island when I spotted him. They are not a rare bird but sightings are not very common. The long curved beak is impressive!

This was first time I was on the beach this summer as the entire ocean-side beach of the Parker River NWR is closed from April 1 until when the nesting Piping Plovers have finished raising their chicks. There was a juvenile plover running around not far from the Whimbrel.

A common shorebird in Massachusetts this time of year is the Yellowlegs. Two individuals of the larger species, Greater Yellowlegs, were foraging along a channel at low tide. They actively hunt small fish and run along the water’s edge, scooping up minnows.

Two other Greater Yellowlegs were hunting near some American Black Ducks and Mallards.

A very large flock of hundreds of shorebirds flew over the marsh while I was photographing birds in a large pond. The flock had two separate species that were mostly grouped together by species but had a few “visitors” in each group. The Semi-palmated Sandpiper portion of the flock had a few Semi-palmated Plovers mixed in. The plovers are the ones with a stubby beak and a collar. There was a single Lesser Yellowlegs flying along with the plover portion of the flock. It stands out by its relative size.

The two Yellowleg species are really hard to distinguish unless they are standing next to each other. The Lesser is decidedly smaller. The Greater has a longer bill in proportion to its head than the Lesser. Sometimes it is really hard to decide though!

2 thoughts on “Shorebird Migration

  1. Beautiful photos! These are birds I don’t get to see often, so I appreciate being able to “see” them here.


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