Florence Merriam Bailey.

Handbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley online

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Online LibraryFlorence Merriam BaileyHandbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley → online text (page 13 of 65)
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Nest A slight depression in damp ground, usually without lining.

Eggs : 3 to 4, heavily spotted with brown.

Subgenus Phalaropus.

223. Phalaropus lobatus (Linn.). NORTHERN PHALAROPE.

Bill about as long as head, very slender and sharp; margins of toes

; j




scalloped ; wing 1 with white bar in all Male in breeding plu-
mage : upper parts dark plumbeous, striped on back with
buif and black ; sides of neck rufous ; chest gray ; upper
throat and belly white. Female in breeding plumage : brighter
colored, rufous extending across throat as well as on sides of
neck. Fall and winter plumage: face, line over eye, and
under parts white ; line under eye, and back of head, dusky ;
upper parts mainly gray. Young : like winter adults, but

upper parts darker, striped with buff and black. Length : 7-8, wing 4.00-

4.45, bill .80-.90.

Distribution. Northern part of northern hemisphere ; in America,

breeding from Alaska to Labrador and Greenland ; south in winter to


Nest. A slight depression in the ground near water ; lined with

leaves and grass. Eggs : 4, buffy or olive, irregularly spotted with dark



224. Steganopus tricolor Vieill. WILSON PHALAROPE.

Bill slender, longer than head ; toes with straight-edged marginal mem-
branes ; wing without white bar ; female larger and handsomer than male.
Male in breeding plumage : crown and upper parts dusky, touched with
brown ; sides of neck with a chestnut stripe ; throat and chest buffy ;
stripe over eye, chin, and belly white. Female in breeding plumage : crown
and back bluish gray ; black stripe along sides of head and neck shading
into rich chestnut along lower neck and shoulders ; chest and lower part of
throat delicate cinnamon buff ; upper part of throat, belly, and line over
eye white. Adults in winter plumage : upper parts plain gray, chest and
sides of breast grayish ; rest of under parts white. Young : upper parts
dusky, streaked with light cinnamon ; under parts white, with tinge of
cinnamon across breast. Female : length 9.40-10.00, wing 5.20-5.30, bill
1.30-1.35, tarsus 1.30-1.35. Male : length 8.25-9.00, wing 4.75-4.80, bill
1.25, tarsus 1.20-1.25.

Distribution. From British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Quebec ;
south in winter to Brazil and Patagonia ; breeding from Illinois, Colorado,
and Kansas northward, mainly in the interior.

Nest . On ground, in slight excavation ; lined with grass. Eggs : 3 or
4, creamy, buff or drab, spotted with dark brown.

There is not among all our waders a more dainty, exquisitely
colored bird than the Wilson phalarope, with its warm, richly blended
tints, trim form, and soft plumage. You find it in small flocks,
swimming on the ponds like tiny ducks, or sandpiper-like picking
about on the muddy shores. Should you enter its marshy breeding
grounds it will fly anxiously about your head with a low ' croaking '
note, threatening and coaxing to get you away from its nest and

Like the other plialaropes the female is larger and brighter colored
than the male and is said to leave most of the incubation and care of
the young to her more protectively colored mate.





1. Bill strongly curved upward toward end, hind toe present but minute ;

front toes half webbed Recurvirostra, p. 86.

1'. Bill scarcely or not at all curved upwards, hind toe wanting, only a

small web between outer and middle toes . Himantopus, p. 86.


225. Recurvirostra americana GmeL AVOCET.

Bill black, feet and legs bluish. Adults in summer plumage : head, neck,

chest, and shoulders light
cinnamon, shading into
whitish around base of
bill ; under parts, rump,
and large patches on
wing white ; primaries,
base of wing, and half of
scapulars black. Adults
in winter plumage : cinna-
mon of head, neck, and chest replaced by grayish white. Young : like
winter adults, but quills and scapulars tipped with whitish, and back of
neck tinged with buffy. Length : 15.50-18.75, wing 8.50-9.00, bill 3.40-
3.65, tarsus 3.70-3.80.

Distribution. Temperate North America, breeding from Texas to
Saskatchewan ; south in winter to Guatemala and West Indies. Not com-
mon east of the plains.

Nest . In grass near water, made of grass stems. Eggs : 3 or 4, pale
olive or buffy, thickly spotted with varying shades of brown.

Whether flying, walking, or swimming, the avocet is one of the
most conspicuous of our waders. Its long legs and neck, and strong
black and white markings distinguish it from all others even when
its turned-up bill is invisible. Its favorite haunts are the shores of
shallow alkaline lakes and ponds on the plains and in the western
valleys. Small flocks are often seen wading in water nearly up to
their feathers, rapidly picking up the small insects that gather on
the surface. When the water becomes too deep for wading they
swim freely, but do not usually go far from shore. They are seen
occasionally feeding in a marsh or irrigated meadow, and in July
I have found downy young hiding in the short grass just back from
the lake shore. VERNON BAILEY.


226. Himantopus mexicanus (Mull.}. BLACK-NECKED STILT.
Bill black, feet and legs pinkish. Adult male : back of head and neck,

shoulders, and wings greenish black ; tail gray ; rest of plumage white,
breast tinged with dull pinkish in breeding plumage. Adult female ; like




male, but black duller, or slaty. Young : similar to adult female, but
feathers of back bordered with buffy, and blackish of head and neck mot-
tled with buffy. Length : 13.50-15.50, wing- 8.50-9.00, bill 2.50, tarsus 4.

Distribution. The United States, mainly in the western interior, and
southward to Brazil and Peru ; north casually to Minnesota and New
Brunswick. Breeds from southern Texas to Oregon.

Nest. A slight depression in the sand or on wet ground ; or eggs laid
in a bunch of dry grass. Eggs : 3 to 4, buff or olive brown, thickly spotted
with dark brown.

In spite of its apparently extravagant length of legs the black-
necked stilt is a graceful, well-balanced bird, whether stepping
daintily over the grass tops, wading in half a foot of water, swim-
ming when beyond its depth, or flying with head drawn back and
legs straight out behind. As the birds alight they raise their black
pointed wings over their white body a moment, assuming a pose
that is not only strikingly beautiful but doubtless an important
directive and recognition signal. Sometimes when quietly feeding
one will lift its wings in this way, without apparent reason.

Much of the stilt's food is gleaned from the surface of the shallow
water or from plant stems rising from it, and its reason for prefer-
ing the flooded marsh to the open pond is presumably the greater
abundance of minute insect life found among the aquatic plants.




1. Back of tarsus covered with hexagonal scales . Numenius, p. 101.
1'. Back of tarsus with a row of transverse scutellae.

2. Ears under anterior corner of eyes Philohela, p. 88.

2'. Ears posterior to eyes or directly under them.

3. Ears directly under eyes, lower part of thighs naked.

4. Crown and back broadly striped .... Gallinago, p. 88.
4'. Crown and back mottled, not striped.

Macrorhamphus, p. 89.
3'. Ears posterior to eyes.

4. Hind toe wanting Calidris, p. 94.

4'. Hind toe present.

5. No trace of web between toes.

6. Bill longer than middle toe and claw . . Tringa, p. 90.
6'. Bill shorter than middle toe and claw . Tryngites, p. 100.
5'. A distinct web between middle and one or both lateral toes.
6. Tail much graduated, about half as long as wing.

Bartramia, p. 99.
6'. Tail not much graduated, not nearly half as long as wing.

7. Bill longer than tail Limosa, p. 95.

7'. Bill shorter than tail.

8. Bill distinctly widened and roughened at tip.

Micropalama, p. 90.


8'. Bill not distinctly widened and roughened at tip.

9. Wing less than 4 Ereunetes, p. 93.

9'. Wing over 4.

10. Tarsus equal to middle toe and claw.

11. Wing under 4.60 .... Actitis, p. 100.
11'. Wing over 6.50 . . . Heteractitis, p. 98.
10'. Tarsus longer than middle toe and cla\r.
11. Wing with large white patch.

Symp hernia, p. 98.
11'. Wing without white patch.

12. Upper tail coverts white . Totanus, p. 96.
12'. Upper tail coverts dusky.

Helodromas, p. 97.

228. Philohela minor (GmeL). AMERICAN WOODCOCK.

Bill long and slender, mandibles grooved and roughened toward end,
tip of upper overlapping the under ; nostril small at edge of feathers ;
three outer quills abruptly narrowed.

Upper parts gravish brown, mottled with black ; back of head black,
with narrow cross-bars of buffy ; under parts rich buff, darker on throat.
length. : 10.50-11.75, wing 4.80-5.70, bill 2.50-2.75, tarsus 1.25.

Distribution. Eastern United States north to Canada, west to Rocky
Mountains in Colorado ; breeds throughout its range.

Nest. On ground in wooded bottoms, usually by a log or stump, made
of leaves and grass. Eggs : 3 or 4, grayish to buffy white, spotted with
reddish brown.

Dr. A. K. Fisher says : "This much sought game bird is in dan-
ger of extermination from the barbarous custom of hunting it in
spring and summer, just before and during the breeding season."


230. Gallinago delicata (Ord). WILSON SNIPE : JACK SNIPE.

Bill long and slender, mandibles grooved, roughened, and widened
toward end ; tip of upper overreaching the
lower mandible ; nostril small and at edge
of feathers.

Crown buff, with side stripes of black ;
back mainly black with stripes falling into
two middle lines of buff and two outer lines
of whitish ; neck and breast spotted and
streaked with buff, brown, and dusky ; sides
barred with black and white ; belly white.
Length: 10.50-11.15, wing 4.90-5.60, bill
2.50-2.70, tarsus 1.20-1.30.

Distribution. North America, and south
in winter to northern South America, breed-
Fig. 102. ing from Colorado and Utah to north of the

Arctic Circle.

Nest . A grass-lined cavity in marshy ground. Eggs : 3 or 4, grayish
olive, spotted and streaked with brown and black.

The plump jack snipe with the striped back is a prober rather
than a wader, as his short legs and long bill attest. He pokes about


in the muddy bottoms, under grass, flags, and tules, fishing up his
food from the soft mud, the sensitive tip of his long bill enabling
him to select the choicest worms and other dainty morsels.

He is a common bird wherever there are marshes to his taste, and
most country folk are familiar with his song. On warm summer
evenings or cloudy days before a storm he mounts high in air and
with rapidly vibrating wings produces a prolonged whirr that in-
creases to a diminutive roar, and repeats it every minute or two for
sometimes half an hour. At other times he flies low over the grass,
uttering a guttural chuck-chuck-chuck-chuck-chuck, and then drops
out of sight. His common, all-the -year-round note is a nasal squank,
uttered as he springs from the ground at your feet and makes off in
quick zigzags.

The only excuse for considering so small a bird game is his swift
irregular flight, which saves him from all but the expert wing shot.



General Characters. Bill similar to that of Gallinago ; lower part of
back white, rump spotted black and white ; tail finely cross-barred with
black, buff, and white.


1. Belly rich cinnamon brown SCOlopaceus, p. 89.

1 '.Belly white or buff y griseus, p. 89.

231. Macrorhamphus griseus (Gmel.) DOWITCHEB.

Similar to scolopaceus but smaller and adults in summer distinguished
by whitish belly and dusky specking of sides and breast. Length: 1011,
wing 5.25-5.90, bill 2.00-2.55, tarsus 1.20-1.50. Female decidedly larger
than male.

Distribution. Eastern North America, breeding far north; south in
winter to Brazil ; west as stragglers (?) to Idaho and Oregon.

232. Macrorhamphus scolopaceus (Say). LONG-BILLED Dow-


Adults in summer, A light stripe over eye and dusky stripe from eye
to bill ; upper parts, except rump and
lower back, specked and mottled with
Llack, brown, and buff ; rump white,
spotted with black, tail feathers barred
black and white ; entire under parts Fig- 103 '

bright cinnamon specked on throat and barred on sides and lower tail cov-
erts with dusky. Adults in winter : belly and line over eye white ; rest
of plumage gray. Young : similar to adults but back and crown mottled
with black and ochraceous ; belly and chest suffused with light cinnamon.
Length : 11.00-12.50, wing 5.40-6.00, bill 2.10-3.00, tarsus 1.35-1.75.

Distribution. Western North America, breeding in British Columbia
and Alaska ; migrating south through western United States and Missis-
sippi valley to northern South America ; less common in eastern United


Nest. A depression in the moss or grass, sometimes at considerable
distance from water. Eggs : 4, greenish olive to light clay color, spotted
with dark umber brown.

By some ornithologists scolopaceus is considered merely a western
subspecies of griseus, with intergrades between and probably a con-
tinuous breeding range across the arctic regions. In winter plum-
age the main difference is one of size, but as the females of both
species are larger than the males only birds of the same sex should
be compared.

In their migrations over the United States the long-billed dow-
itchers are usually found in little flocks along the coasts or among
the prairie sloughs or marshes, flying swiftly low over the ground,
or feeding in close bunches. Unfortunately they are considered
legitimate game, and although wild and ever on the alert fall an easy
prey to the pot-hunter.

For an interesting account of their habits on their breeding
grounds, see Nelson's Birds of Alaska. VERNON BAILEY.


233. Micropalama himantopus (Bonap.). STILT SANDPIPER.

Bill long and slender, conspicuously widened and roughened at tip ; toes
webbed at base, legs long and slender.
Adults in summer : upper parts mottled
with dusky, black, buff, and brown ; up-
per tail coverts white, barred with dusky ;
ear coverts and stripe along side of crown
rusty brown ; under parts thickly barred

and mottled with dusky, buff, and white. Adults in winter: upper parts
plain ashy gray, under parts including tail coverts white, specked on
sides ; throat and tail coverts marked with gray. Young : back browner,
belly plain buffy, tail coverts nearly pure white. Length : 7.50-9.25, wing
5.00-5.30, bill 1.55-1.75, tarsus 1.55-1.70.

Distribution. Eastern North America, breeding north of the United
States ; south in winter to Central and South America ; west to Colorado
and Wyoming.

Goss, in his Birds of Kansas, says: "I have met with this rare
species in the state on several occasions, at all times in small flocks
and along the edges of old channels of rivers or muddy pools of
water in which it wades while feeding."


General Characters. Toes slender, without webs at base ; bill slender
and narrow, tip hard and smooth.


1. Middle pair of tail feathers not longer than others . canutus, p. 91
1'. Middle pair of tail feathers sharp and longer than the others.


2. Bill nearly twice as long as middle toe and claw . pacifica, p. 93.
2' . Bill shorter or but little longer than middle toe and claw.

3. Upper tail coverts white, slightly streaked . fuscicollis, p. 92.
3'. Upper tail coverts blackish.

4. Wing over 5 maculata, p. 91.

4'. Wing under 5.

5. Wing 4.80-4.90 bairdii, p. 92.

5'. Wing 3.50-3.75 minutilla, p. 92.

Subgenus Tringa.
234. Tringa canutus Linn. KNOT.

The only species of Tringa in which the middle pair of tail feathers are
not decidedly longer than the rest. Adults
in summer : upper parts grayish and
dusky, tinged with buff ; rump and up-
per tail coverts white, barred and spotted
with dusky ; line over eye and most of Fig.

under parts pale cinnamon ; flanks and
under tail coverts white. Adults in winter : upper parts plain- gray ; under
parts, rump, and tail coverts white, barred or streaked with dusky except
on belly and under tail coverts. Young : like adults in winter but gray
feathers of back edged with whitish and dusky, and breast often suffused
with buffy. Length: 10-11, wing 6.50, tail 2.50, bill 1.40.

Distribution. Northern hemisphere, chiefly on the seacoasts ; south in
winter nearly through the southern hemisphere ; breeding far north.

Eggs. Deposited in a tuft of grass ; 4, light pea green specked with

The knot is rare inland and apparently less common along the
Pacific than on the Atlantic coast. It is a beach bird, getting its
food from the wash of the waves.

Subgenus Actodromas.
239. Tringa maculata Vieill. PECTORAL SANDPIPER.

Bill longer than tarsus ; middle pair of tail feathers pointed and longer
than the rest ; shaft of outer quill only,
pure white ; rump, upper coverts, and mid-
dle tail feathers, black. Adults : upper
parts mottled dusky, black, and buffy ;
chest dark gray, finely "streaked with

dusky ; chin and belly white. Young : similar to adults, but upper parts
striped with ochraceous, brightest on edges of tertials and tail feathers ;
chest buffy, finely streaked with dusky. Length: 8.00-9.50, wing 5.00-
5.50, bill 1.10-1.20, tarsus 1.00-1.10.

Distribution. Whole of North America, the West Indies, and most of
South America, breeding in arctic regions. Occasional in Europe.

Nest. On dry ground, in the grass. Eggs : 4, greenish drab, spotted
with brown.

The pectoral sandpiper is a common migrant in the eastern United
States and the Mississippi valley, but less common westward. It is
found in flocks, on the marshes and muddy flats rather than along
the beaches.


240. Tringa f uscicollis Vieill. BONAPARTE SANDPIPER : WHITE-


Rump dusky, the feathers tipped with buffy ; upper tail coverts pure
white or slightly streaked with dusky. Adults in summer : upper parts
buffy and gray, -broadly streaked on crown and
back with black ; chest and sides ashy gray,
streaked with dusky ; faint line over eye, chin,
anc ^ kelly white. Adults in winter : upper parts,
sides, and chest dark gray, obscurely streaked
with dusky. Young : similar to adults, but feathers of upper parts exten-
sively margined with rusty, and chest tinged with buffy. Length : 6.75-
8.00, wing 4.90-5.00, bill .90-1.00, tarsus .95-1.00.

Distribution. Breeding in the far north and migrating south over
eastern North America and South America to Falkland Islands ; west to
Colorado. Casual in Europe.

241. Tringa bairdii (Coues). BAIRD SANDPIPER.

Middle upper tail coverts plain dusky. Adults in summer : upper parts
spotted and streaked with black, grayish, and buffy ; chest buffy, streaked
with dusky ; line over eye, chin, and belly whitish.
Adults in winter : plain grayish brown, obscurely
streaked with dusky ; under parts whitish, chest
Fig. 108. suffused with buffy. Young : feathers of back

tipped with whitish, and chest less sharply streaked

with dusky than in summer adult. Length : 7.00-7.60, wing 4.60-4.85, bill
.90-1.00, tarsus 1.00.

Distribution. Most of North and South America. In North America,
chiefly the interior, breeding in Alaska and on the Barren Grounds. Rare
on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Nest. A depression in the ground, lined with leaves. Eggs : 4, light
drab, specked and spotted with brown.

During migrations Baird sandpipers are common usually in small
flocks along the shores of lakes and ponds over the western prairie

242. Tringa minutilla Vieill. LEAST SANDPIPER.

Size very small, wing less than 4. Adults in summer: median parts of
tail, upper coverts, and rump black ; sides of coverts white, streaked
with dusky ; rest of upper parts mainly blackish,
specked and spotted with brown and buff ; chest
buffy gray, specked with dusky ; belly and flanks
Fig. 109. white. Adults in winter : upper parts dark gray,

obscurely spotted and streaked with dusky ; chest
light gray, finely streaked. Young : crown and back heavily streaked with
rusty, and back spotted with white ; chest buffy gray, faintly streaked.
Length : 5.00-6.75, wing 3.50-3.75, bill .75-.92, tarsus .75.

Distribution. The whole of North and South America, wintering from
the Gulf of Mexico south, breeding mainly north of the United States.
Accidental in Europe.

Nest. On the ground, a slight depression lined with leaves and grass.
Eggs : 3 or 4, creaky buff to drab, irregularly spotted with brown.

The least sandpipers are common, especially during migrations,
over a great part of the United States. A few remain in Dakota


through the summer, probably breeding, and in winter the birds are
not uncommon on the coast prairies of Texas. They go in close
flocks, whether feeding among the larger waders on the shores and
mud flats, or wheeling and circling in air on fast buzzing wings.
They are nervous, active little birds, always on the move and quick
to take alarm. VERNON BATLEY.

Subgenus Pelidna.
243a. Tringa alpina pacifica (Coues). RED-BACKED SANDPIPER.

Tarsus longer than middle toe and claw ; bill longer than tarsus, slightly
curved; middle of wing with a large white patch. Adults in summer:
crown, back, and upper tail coverts bright rusty
ochraceous, more or less spotted or streaked
with black ; middle of belly black ; chest gray-
ish white, thickly streaked with dusky ; sides
and back part of belly white. Adults in winter :
upper parts plain ashy gray, obscurely streaked with dusky ; chest light
gray, more or less streaked with dusky ; rest of under parts, sides of rump,
and upper tail coverts white. Young : like adults in winter but upper
parts spotted and streaked with black and ochraceous, and breast coarsely
spotted with black. Length: 7.60-8.75, wing 4.60-4.95, bill 1.40-1.75,
tarsus 1.00-1.15.

Distribution. North America and eastern Asia, breeding far north and
wintering in California, the Gulf States, and southward.

Nest. A bed of dry grass. Eggs : 3 or 4, pale greenish to pale brown-
ish clay color, spotted with dull chocolate and dark brown.

The red-backed sandpiper is common in migrations or in winter
along the coasts of the United States, but is rarely seen in the inte-
rior. The breeding plumage marked by rusty back and black belly
is sometimes acquired before the birds leave the, United States for
their northern breeding grounds, but the winter plumage is the more
common dress up to the first of May.



General Characters. Toes distinctly webbed at base ; bill slightly
widened and flattened at tip.


1. Bill shorter than tarsus pusillus, p. 93.

1'. Bill as long as or longer than tarsus .... occidentalis, p. 94.

246. Ereunetes pusillus (Linn.). SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER.

Adults in summer. Upper parts dusky and black, streaked with gray
and pale buff ; chest light gray, finely streaked ; chin,
belly, and sides white. Adults in winter : upper parts
dull gray, obscurely streaked with dusky; under
parts white tinged with gray across chest. Young : fie. 111.

back spotted with black, and scalloped and streaked
with buff and white; chest tinged with gray; rest of under parts whitish.


Male : length 6, wing 3.65-3.90, bill .6S-.75, tarsus .80-.90. Female : length
6.40, wing 3.85-4.00, bill .80-.92, tarsus .85-.9S.

Distribution. Breeding from Labrador to Alaska, migrating through
the eastern and middle United States as far west as the Rocky Mountains
and Utah ; south to the West Indies and northern South America.

Nest. A slight depression in the ground, lined with grass and leaves.
Eggs : usually 4, light drab, spotted with brown.

The semipalmated sandpiper is generally less common than the
least, which it resembles in habits, general appearance, and small
size, but from which it can always be distinguished by the webbed
base of its toes.

247. Ereunetes occidentalis Lawr. WESTERN SANDPIPER.

Adults in summer. Ear coverts and upper parts bright chestnut, mottled
with black and buffy gray ; breast thickly spotted.
Adults in winter : upper parts dull gray, obscurely
streaked with dusky ; under parts white, with a few

Online LibraryFlorence Merriam BaileyHandbook of birds of the western United States : including the Great Plains, Great Basin, Pacific Slope, and lower Rio Grande Valley → online text (page 13 of 65)