Shore Birds




Migratory birds who favor Californian winters, tend to prefer salty waters over fresh, and therefore shores and beaches are a good place to spot them over summer.

Although, like all birds they are vulnerable to climate change, this species seems stable for the moment.

They are often seen in groups, waving their heads from side to side, while wading in the shallow water, in search of food.

Incubation period is twenty five to thirty five days, and clutches are approximately four eggs each time.

Here is a great video featuring the American Avocet…


Wintering mainly in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, this is a smaller bird of approximately ten to twelve inches high, whereas the female is usually the taller of the sexes.

Other distinguishing features include a long straight bill and a short plumpish body.  Its elongated bill is used to dig in the ground, mainly for earthworms, and is around two and a half inches long. Plumage is a mixture of browns, grays and black.

Also known as a timberdoodle, this bird is seen as an early sign of spring, because of the courtship flights that the male performs to attract a mate.

The courtship is as far as the male woodcock goes in parenting duties.  

After that, the females (known as hens) undertake all the responsibilities of incubation, nest building and chick rearing, although the courtship rituals with males may endure after a hen has laid eggs.  

They do not mate for life, and a male may mate with several females in one season.

Here is a great video featuring the American Woodcock:


Related to the sandpiper family, there are two main types of curlew to be seen in North America today.  

These are the bristle-thighed curlew, and the long billed curlew.

There was formerly a third, the Eskimo curlew, but these are now, sadly presumed to be extinct as no sighting has been made since the sixties.


This bird is fairly rare, so should you be lucky enough to spot one, it would be quite an honor.

Because of its unusual (and sometimes) unfortunate molting habits, this bird is actually incapable of flight while it molts, rendering it extremely vulnerable to predators.

Of course, in the past, it would have chosen a remote uninhabited island in which to spend this testing time, but now, humans cause it some problems.

Wintering in islands in the Pacific, and nesting in the west of Alaska, this bird has – like all the curlews – a distinctive and extremely long bill used for burrowing into the ground.

Occasionally the bristle-thighed curlew has been known to use pieces of rock to crack the shells of albatrosses…a rare example of ‘tool using’ by a bird.


This is the largest shore bird in North America and is notable by its long and very distinctive beak.

In summer it prefers to stay in the dry grassy regions of the west, and will migrate to the coast in the winter.

It also nests in the long grassy prairies, and feeds on mainly insects, supplemented with berries, and sometimes other bird eggs.

Here is a great video which features the Long-Billed Curlew…


In the world at large, there are about sixty six different species of plover, although only about four types are known to North America.  

These are a short billed species, comprised of golden plovers, Wilson’s plover, piping plovers and the ring plover.


With gold and black spots on the crown, wings and back, this bird has a black breast, neck and face flanked by a white area.

Breeding in Alaska and northern Canada, they head south to winter in the southern part of South America, stopping off en route at locations like Illinois before continuing their journey southwards.

Here is a great video which features the American Golden Plover…


Another plover found in the Americas is the piping plover. 

A small, orangey yellow legged bird, not much bigger than a sparrow.  

It favors the sands, shores and beaches of North America, which is where they like to nest – so take care on the beaches if they are in your area!

Piping plovers are so named for their call, which resembles a bell and is usually heard before the bird is visible. They have black collars and head bands.

Here is a great video which features the Piping Plover…


From the sandpiper family, these are stocky birds with jaunty colors in the summer months.

They nest in the arctic tundra of North America, and then descend to the coastal regions of the southern United States, right down to the tip of South America, for the winter season.

These sometimes cause a problem for tern colonies, where they use their beaks to puncture and eat eggs.  

This species are noted for their ability to sometimes work together, to pick over an object that proves too large for one on their own.

Here is a great video which features the Ruddy Turnstone…


Also hailing from the sandpiper family, this is a smaller member which breeds in the arctic of North America and Greenland, and comes to the coastal areas, as well as the lakes, to spend winters.

When not in their glad rags for breeding purposes, these are pale colored birds who are well disguised against the sands.

Roughly seven inches in height, this species has been in serious decline since the seventies.

Here is a great video which features the Sanderling…


This family comprises at least twenty two species that live in North America today, some of whom have been touched upon.

In general, they are between four and twenty six inches in length. Their bills tend to be narrow, but visible, despite the variable lengths. 

Outside of breeding season, sandpipers may display dull shades such as browns, but this could change once in mating season, depending on the individual breed.

A shore bird, these generally eat worms and other invertebrates found in the mud and wet sands.

Here ais a great video featuring Sandpipers…


A type of curlew, this is only mid-sized amongst the curlew breed, but to the general viewer, it is still a fairly large wading bird, at about fifteen to nineteen inches in length.

The whimbrel likes to get about when it comes to migration, distributing themselves from the Pacific and south eastern coastal states of North America, to Southern America, Africa and Australia.


Another type of sandpiper, these are at home in North America, breeding on the Great Plains and the inner areas of north western states, and then migrating down to southern coastal regions on both sides of the United States.

This large bird, likes beaches and mudflats in the winter months.

Here is a great video featuring the Whillet…


These two types of shore birds of a similar appearance, can give even experienced birders a hard time in distinguishing them!

They both live in marshy areas, coastal regions or anywhere else that provides access to water.

The greater yellowlegs is a large bird, of about eleven to sixteen inches, with long yellow legs, which despite its similar appearance to the lesser yellowlegs, is actually more closely related to a greenshank.

It has a dark colored bill, which curves upwards.

Slightly smaller, is the lesser yellowlegs (at approximately eleven inches in length).  It winters on the gulf coast of the United States and South America.

Here is a great video featuring the Yellowlegs…

Thanks for reading!

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About the author: Sandor is a former stock broker and current tour guide and treasure hunter, travelling far and wide seeking buried treasure.  He has found some very interesting artifacts in his searches.  He is also an avid bird watcher and is an advocate for rare and endangered birds.

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