Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
  Contents
  Index
WORLD BIRDS
  Contents
  Index

ANECDOTES

  Willet
 
 

BACK - NEXT

 

Species Acct.
Loons
Grebes
Procellarids
Pelicans
Herons
Ibises
Storks
Vultures
Flamingos
Waterfowl
Raptors
Turkeys
Quail
Rails
Limpkin
Cranes
Shorebirds
Gulls
Terns
Auks
Doves
Parrots
Cuckoos
Owls
Goatsuckers
Swifts
Hummers
Kingfishers
Woodpckrs
Flycatchers
Shrikes
Vireos
Crows/Jays
Larks
Swallows
Tits
Nuthatches
Creepers
Wrens
Kinglets
Gnatcatchers
Thrushes
Mimids
Starlings
Pipits
Waxwings
NW Warblers
Tanagers
NWSparrows
Cardinalines
Icterids
Finches
OWSparrows

TOP

     
View More Pictures
  Order Charadriiformes - Plovers, Sandpipers, Gulls, Terns, Auks
   Family Scolopacidae - "Sandpipers"
      Tribe Tringini - Shanks (Long-legged Waders)

  Charadriiforms are a diverse group of shore and aquatic or wading or terrestrial birds. They include the sandgrouse, shore birds, gulls and terns, and alcids. The majority breed in the Northern Hemisphere.
   The Tree of Life includes shorebirds with the Ciconiiformes.
Sandpipers are a diverse group of shorebirds with bills not swollen at the tip. Most live in association with water. Short-billed forms feed on the surface using vision. Long-billed forms probe in mud and their prey is located by touch or smell. Tides influence their feeding cycles.   
Tringids (shanks and tattlers) are medium size shorebirds, often found around the edges of fresh-water habitats. Most feed by picking but those with longer legs may wade in water to probe and may eat small fish. Many have gray or gray-brown as their primary color but may have brightly colored legs ("shanks").. Most breed in northern latitudes in marshy openings in boreal forest (only the Willet breeds in lower latitudes). Most tringids migrate long distances. Many tringids bob their head when disturbed - some like the Spotted Sandpiper do it so often it becomes a diagnostic habit.
 
Key Species of Shorebirds
 
     
  Willet, Tringa semipalmata
 
Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        YEAR ROUND - Common / Common, breeds
            BEACH, ESTUARIES, LAGOON (coastal)
MORE PICTURES
 

   Willets are medium-sized tringid waders with soft gray plumage in the non-breeding season. They become browner as breeding approaches. They have gray legs, a relatively large head, a straight stout bill, and conspicuous white wing-stripes seen when they fly or stretch their wings. They often wade in water up to their belly and may swim.
   Sibley lists the species name as Cataptrophorus semipalmatus. The current name is correctly identified above.
   Eastern Willets are found in salt water habitats. Western Willets breed inland in fresh-water habitats. They are larger and some consider them a separate species (picture in the gallery).

Willet
Key Species of Shorebirds
   While identifying shorebirds, there are two "key" species that need to be learned well in all plumages. They provide reference points against which all other shorebirds can be compared. These are the Willet and the Sanderling.
   Willets are 15" long, nondescript gray shorebirds of medium size (they give away their identification with they fly - showing a white wing-stripe and grayish tail). They are found on our high-energy beaches as well as estuaries and mud flats.
   Sanderlings are smaller, about 8" in length, and may be considered the largest of the "peeps," a confusing group of small sandpipers. In winter, sanderlings are a pale gray with white under-parts and straight black bills and black feet. In breeding plumage they develop rufous feathers on the head, neck and back but we see them in this plumage for only a brief period. Sanderlings have a white stripe in the wing and dark central tail feathers. These are the ubiquitous "surf birds" running in and out of the swash year round.
   Concentrate on learning these two species and use them to compare with others.
 
Willet
 
Willets. North Beach
   
  RANGE: Willets breed along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. A western population breeds inland from the Dakotas through southern Canada and from Colorado to California and Oregon. In winter populations move to the coast and winter to northern Chile and the Galapagos in the west and the West Indies to northern Argentina in the east.
   Western birds are larger with a longer, slightly upturned, bill and longer legs. They are paler and often wade in deep water and swim. There is some feeling that these two populations are separate species.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One brood. The female chooses the nest site. The nest is conspicuous or concealed by thick vegetation on an open beach or flat. Grasses are bent to form the foundation. It is lined with a few dead rushes or grass/sedge. The female lays 4 (4-5) eggs which both sexes (the male at night and mid-day; the female morning and afternoon) incubate for 22-29 days. Development is precocial and chicks leave the nest shortly after hatching. They are led to marshy pond areas for feeding. Both sexes tend the young but the female deserts the brood 2-3 weeks after hatching and the male continues to care for the young for 2 more weeks. They probably can fly in about 4 weeks. Adults may leave the breeding area before the young fledge.
   They are semi-colonial and often nest synchronously.
  DIET: Willets feed on crustaceans (fiddler crabs), worms, mollusks, fish, and aquatic insects. Inland they eat mostly aquatic insects. They forage by walking on shore, in the marsh, in shallow water, or even in the swash zone where they probe for food or pick items from the surface.
  VOICE: They have a loud, clear, ringing call "will, will, willet" that can be heard across the marsh while they are nesting.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds). Kiawah - common year-round (breeds). Edisto - resident
      Coastal - common permanent resident. Hilton Head - common permanent resident.
         Cape Romain
- abundant/abundant (breeds)/common/common. Huntington Beach - common year-round.
      Caw Caw - uncommon summer. ACE - occasional spring and summer, breeds.
   CBC: ACE 22, 0, 50, 10, 25, 30, 100, 6; Charleston 37, 327, 199, 1185, 155, 53, 146, 81;
            St, Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 79, 63; Hilton Head 52, 167, 582, 208, 449, 339, 260, 508; Sun City/Okatie 2, 28, 8, 13, 4, 69, 173, 10;
            McClellanville 25, 16, 65, 41, nc, 26, 42, 21; Winyah Bay x, x, 23, 44, 22, 116, 25, 97; Litchfield/Pawley's 50, 92, 27, 45, 68, 92, 141, 27.
   P&G: Common resident. Maximum 509, Awendaw/Cape Romain, 27 December 1969. Egg Dates: 10 March - 16 June.
   Avendex: 1 published record (maximum above).
   Potter: Year-round resident. Common in summer, less numerous in winter.
  ●  Willets breed on Seabrook - in the marsh edges bordering the river and between the lagoon and river - and on Deveaux Bank. They become quite agitated and fly around calling loudly when their nesting territories are approached by people, dogs, or other potential predators. People should not cross these dunes during the breeding seasons - the effects of disturbance to Willets and Wilson's Plovers can be extreme.
   Willets are often found in small groups (up to 30 or so) during migration. They may be seen on the beach, around the lagoon, feeding on the river and by the inlet year round. They can also swim - landing and taking off from the surface of the water.
       
    Banner - Willet. Bear Island WMA.
       
       
NEXT
 

KEY:    ■ Seabrook list     □ Kiawah list