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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scattered triangular spots of dusky on breast and sides.
Young: back spotted with black and scalloped with
dark chestnut and white ; chest tinged with pinkish
buff ; rest of under parts white. Male : wing 3.60-
3.75, bill .S5-.95, tarsus .85-.90. Female: wing 3.70-
3.90, bill 1.00-1.15, tarsus .90-.95.

Distribution. Breeding in Alaska and British America, migrating
through western North America to Central and South America. Occa-
sional on the Atlantic coast in migrations.

Nest. A slight depression in bare or grassy ground. Eggs : usually 4,
deep cinnamon buff, spotted with rusty brown or chestnut.

The western sandpiper is common along the Pacific coast during
migration, but scarce and irregular in the interior.


248. Calidris arenaria (Linn.). SANDEBLING.

Toes only 3, short and flattened ; bill slender, about as long as tarsus ;
feet and legs black. Breeding plumage : upper parts, throat, aud *

chest specked and spotted y

with rusty, black, and whit- zj
ish ; rest of under parts and '"Sf
stripe on middle of wing "^

Fig. 113. white. Adults in summer : lg ' 114 '

upper parts and throat specked, spotted, and streaked with black, rusty
and whitish ; rest of under parts and stripe on wing white. Adults in
winter: upper parts hoary gray, except blackish quills and bend of wing;
under parts snowy white. Young : upper parts coarsely spotted with dusky
and gray above ; under parts white, sparsely marked with dusky and buffy
on chest. Length : 7.00-8.75, wing 4.70-5.00, bill .95-1.00, tarsus .90-1.05.
Remarks. In having but three toes the sanderling resembles the plov-
ers, but may be distinguished from them by its slender bill and trans-
versely scaled tarsus.

Distribution. Nearly cosmopolitan, but breeding only in arctic and
subarctic regions ; in America wintering from Texas and California south
to Chile and Patagonia.


Nest. A depression in the ground lined with grass and leaves. Eggs :
usually 4, light olive brown, spotted with various shades of brown.

The sanderlings are sometimes found on the inland lake shores and
during migrations are abundant on the coasts, picking along the
sandy beaches and chasing the retreating waves.


General Characters. Bill long and slender, straight, or slightly inclined
upwards, whole front and back of tarsus covered with transverse scutellae.


1. Tail finely barred with cinnamon and dusky .... fedoa. p. 95.
1'. Tail black, tip and base white haemastica, p. 95.

249. Limosa fedoa (Linn.). MARBLED GODWIT.

Adults. Plumage mainly light cinnamon brown, heavily mottled with
black on upper parts,
and finely barred with
blackish on chest, sides,
and tail ; throat streaked ^^
and chin whitish ; edge

of wing black. Young : p n _

similar to adults but

more ochraceous brown, and breast and sides unmarked. Length : 16.50-
20.50, wing 8.50-9.00, bill 3.50-5.06.

Distribution. Nearly the whole of North America, breeding in Tran-
sition zone from Iowa and Nebraska north to Manitoba, Saskatchewan,
and British Columbia ; migrating to Guatemala, Trinidad, Yucatan, and

Nest. A slight depression in grassy ground, lined with a little dry
grass. Eggs : usually 4.

On the prairies, Colonel Goss says, the marbled godwits are found
in flocks on moist ground and fresh water marshes. On the sea-
shore they follow the retreating waves, probing the wet sand with
their long, black-tipped, flesh-colored bills.

251. Limosa hsemastica (Linn.). HUDSONIAN GODWIT.

Tail black, tipped with white ; upper coverts crossed by a wide white
band. Adults in summer : back black, spotted with buff ; under parts
light chestnut, barred with dusky ; head and neck speckled and streaked
with buff and dusky ; chin and line over eye whitish. Adults in winter :
head, neck, and under parts buffy gray ; upper parts plain grayish brown.
Young: similar to winter adults but feathers of back scalloped with
dusky and buff. Length : 14.00-16.75, wing 8.10-8.60, bill 2.85-3.45.

Distribution. Breeding far north, and migrating through the United
States east of the Rocky Mountains ; south to southern South America.

Nest. A depression in the ground lined with a few leaves. Eggs :
usually 4, deep olive or light brown, spotted with darker brown.

The Hudsonian godwit has not been taken west of the Rocky



General Characters. Bill longer than head, very slender; legs and
toes long, slender, and yellow. Tarsus one and a half times as long as
middle toe and claw.


1. Bill nearly as long as tarsus, grooved for less than half its length.

melanoleucus, p. 96.
1 . Bill much shorter than tarsus, grooved for more than half its length.

flavipes, p. 97.
Subgenus Glottis.

254. Totanus melanoleucus (Gmd.). GREATER YELLOW-LEGS.
Adults in summer. Upper parts heavily mottled with black, gray, and

white ; quills black ; upper tail
coverts white, tail white barred

___ , with gray; under parts white,

Fig. no. spotted on chest and barred on

sides with black; throat gray,
streaked with dusky. Adults in winter: upper parts dark gray, finely
spotted with white ; under parts mainly white, with fine spotting of gray
on chest and throat. Young : like adults in winter, but darker above and
with buffy instead of white spotting. Length: 12.15-15.00, wing 7.50-
7.75, bill 2.20-2.30, tarsus 2.50-2.75.

Remarks. In flight the whole tail and rump appear white, and are
very conspicuous.

Distribution. Nearly the whole of America, breeding from Nebraska
and northern Illinois northward, and wintering from southern Californir
and the Gulf states southward to South America.

Nest. A slight depression in the ground lined with grass. Eggs : ?
or 4, grayish or brownish buff, irregularly spotted with dark brown. Fev
nests have been recorded.

Over most of the United States the greater yellow-legs are con
spicuous in spring and fall among the flocks of migrating snipes and
sandpipers, not only about marshes and ponds, but on irrigated
fields where silvery minnows have been washed over the land. Af
they walk about, the long bill and neck, slender gray body, and
white breast are not markedly different from those of other sand-
pipers around them, nor is there much that is individual in the dove-
like motion of their heads and the occasional tilting of the tail ; but
when disturbed by your approach they rise in a close flock with
their liquid tweep, tu-weep, and the white rump and tail, together with
their large size, mark them unmistakably. Like others of their
kind, unless too thoroughly alarmed they fly only a short distance
before wheeling and circling back. As they wheel and circle the
shifting whiteness of the flocks against the blue of the sky is enough
to rouse one's enthusiasm. As they get ready to alight they lean
over and look down, set their wings, and then come to ground, rais-
ing their wings gracefully over their backs for a moment after their


feet touch the earth. But though fascinating to watch at their
feeding grounds, they are seen at their best when they come in high
from a distance on angular tern-like wings and sweep swiftly down
through the sky.

255. Tetanus flavipes (Gmel.). LESSER YELLOW-LEGS.
Smaller than melanoleucus. Plumage similar in all its stages, but with

finer markings. Length : 9.50-1 1.00, wing
6.10-6.65, bill 1.30-1.55, tarsus 2.00-2.15.

Distribution. Nearly the whole of

America, breeding mainly north of the Fi 117

United States ; migrating to southern

South America. Less common west of the Rocky Mountains ; accidental
in Europe.

Nest. A mere depression in the ground, sometimes lined with leaves
or grass. Eggs : usually 4, of varying shades of buff, spotted with dark

In habits as well as general appearance the lesser yellow -legs
resembles its larger relative, with which it is often found, sometimes
in the same flock but more often in separate flocks on the same
feeding ground. When seen together the difference in size is most
noticeable, though the birds are otherwise counterparts.


General Characters. Bill very slender, a little longer than head ; legs
and toes olive green, long, and slender ; tarsus scarcely longer than middle
toe and claw.


1. Specking of back white or creamy solitarius, p. 97.

1'. Specking of back cinnamon brown .... ciniiamomeus, p. 98.

256. Helodromas solitarius (Wils.). SOLITARY SANDPIPER.
Adults in summer. Upper parts, including upper tail coverts and two

middle tail feathers, dark olive gray, finely

specked with whitish ; rest of tail barred

with white ; outer quills and edge of wing

deep black ; under parts white, streaked

with dusky on chest and throat. Adults

in winter : upper parts more dusky and less olive, chest less streaked.

Young : specking of back buff y, and dusky of chest and sides tinged with

buff. Wing: 4.83-5.19, tail 2.05-2.28, bill 1.03-1.20.

Remarks. The solitary is distinguished from the other sandpipers in
the field by its dark color and black wings, and by its shrill note as it takes

Distribution. North America east of the Rocky Mountains, breeding
from the northern United States northward, and migrating to Argentina
and Peru.

Nest. A slight depression in the ground lined with leaves and grass.
Eggs : said to be 2 to 4, dull buffy, spotted with rich brown and purplish
gray. Fw nests have ever been found or well identified eggs collected.


A little grass-fringed pond in the half open woods is a favorite
wading-ground of the solitary sandpiper's, but the birds are often
seen singly or in pairs by wayside puddles or meadow creeks, pick-
ing their food from the shallow water with easy graceful motions,
pausing now and then with head erect to make a teetering bow.
They are quiet, shy birds, but not unapproachable, and they show
an interested curiosity in strangers. VERNON BAILEY.

256a. H. S. cinnamomeus (Brewst.). WESTERN SOLITARY SAND-

Slightly larger than solitarius, with the spotting of back in typical
specimens cinnamon brown instead of white or creamy, and with sides of
face lighter colored. Wing: 5.10-5.49, tail 2.18-2.30, bill 1.15-1.30.

Distribution. Western North America, migrating south through the
Great Basin and Pacific coast region to Lower California and southward.

In general appearance and habits the western is the counterpart
of the eastern solitary.


258a. Symphemia semipalmata inornata Brewst. WEST-

Size large, bill slender, straight, about as long as tarsus ; base of toes
webbed ; base of tail and large patch on wing always white. Adults in
summer : upper parts mottled gray and dusky ; end of tail gray ; belly
white ; chest and sides buffy, barred with dusky, and throat streaked with
dusky. Adults in winter : upper parts plain ashy gray ; under parts white,
grayish on sides of throat and breast. Young : like adults, but upper
parts and sides more buffy or ochraceous. Wing : 7.88-8.26, bill 2.28-2.70,
tarsus 2.45-2.95.

Distribution. North America, west of the Mississippi valley, and north
to about 56, breeding from the Gulf coast of Texas north to Manitoba ;
south in winter to Mexico. Casual along the Atlantic states in migration.

Nest. In a tussock of grass, rather bulky, and composed of grass and
various plant stems. Eggs : 4, grayish buffy or olive, heavily spotted
with dark brown and purplish gray.

The western willet differs from the eastern in slightly larger size
and in shades of color, but not in general appearance or habits.
The shores of lakes and ponds are its favorite feeding grounds, but
it is sometimes found on the meadows or prairies not far from water.

After seeing the inconspicuous ashy gray birds feeding quietly
along a sandy beach, there is something startling in the flash of
strongly contrasted white and dark gray markings and the boisterous
laugh as they take to wing. Once seen and heard, they can be con-
fused with no other waders. VERNON BAILEY.


259. Heteractitis incanus (Gmel). WANDERING TATLER.

Web between middle and outer toes, but not between middle and inner ;


bill straight and slender, longer than tarsus ; tarsus equal to length of mid-
dle toe and claw. Adults in summer : upper parts plain slaty or plumbeous
gray ; under parts thickly barred with white and dusky, becoming more
spotted on throat and pure white on anal region. Adults in winter : middle
of belly and chin white ; chest, sides, and upper parts gray. Young : like
winter adults but with fine specks and narrow scallops of white on wings
and back. Length: 10.50-11.30, wing 6.50-7.30, bill 1.50-1.60, tarsus

Distribution. Pacific coast of America, from Norton Sound to Lower
California and Galapagos Islands ; west to Kamschatka and the Hawaiian
and Polynesian Islands ; breeding from Vancouver Island northward.

Nest and eggs apparently not recorded.


261. Bartramia longicauda (Bechst.). BARTRAMIAN SANDPIPER:

Tail long and graduated, the end reaching well beyond tips of folded
wings ; base of toes webbed only between outer and middle. Adults :
rump black, rest of upper parts dusky, or greenish black, scalloped and
streaked with buff ; crown blackish, with a median line of light buff ;
sides and lower surface of wing barred with black and white ; throat
streaked and chest marked with dusky; chin and belly white. Length:
11.00-12.75, wing 6.50-7.00, bill 1.10-1.15, tarsus 1.90-2.05, tail 3.40-3.50.

Distribution. Most of North America, but mainly the plains and prairie
region east of the Rocky Mountains ; north to Nova Scotia and Alaska ;
west to Utah and Oregon ; breeding from southern Kansas and Utah north-
ward ; migrating to Brazil and Peru. Accidental in Europe and Australia.

Nest. A slight depression, usually in bare ground, sometimes with a
little grass lining. Eggs : 4, creamy or buffy, spotted with dark brown
and purplish gray.

While in habits more plover than sandpiper, Bartramia combines
even more the characteristics of the curlew and the godwit. It is
rarely found near water, being preeminently a bird of the prairie.
Sometimes during migrations it gathers in large flocks but is usually
found in pairs catching insects in the prairie grass and flowers or
following the plough picking up worms from the fresh earth. To the
plough-boy of the plains it is a confiding companion, trusting him at
a friendly distance and confidently answering his low whistles, while
he in turn marks its nests, leaving many a bit of unploughed ground
for its home. The soft bubbling whistle of the old birds as they
come over the prairie to meet you, and with curved trembling wings
circle about, trying to coax you away from their nests or young, is
one of the sweetest, most characteristic sounds of the prairie.

But, for the morsel of meat on their breasts, these beautiful,
friendly birds are counted game, even on their breeding grounds,
and in migration they are slaughtered by thousands on the southern
prairies. VERNON BAILEY.



262. Tryngites subruficollis (Vieill.). BUFF-BREASTED SAND-


Toes not webbed ; bill slender, straight, and about as long as middle
toe without claw ; under surface of wing beautifully mottled and marbled
with black on white and creamy. Adults : upper parts dull brownish
buff, the feathers with black or dusky centers ; under parts plain rich
buff. Young : like adults, but feathers of back edged with whitish.
Length: 7.00-8.90, wing 5.10-5.50, bill .75-.80, tarsus 1.15-1.30.

Distribution. North America in general, especially the interior, breed-
ing from the interior of British America and the Yukon district to the
arctic coast; south in winter to Uruguay and Peru. Occasional in

Nest. A depression in the ground lined with a little moss or grass.
Eggs : usually 4, grayish or pale olive buff, spotted with dark brown and
purplish gray.

Although so widely distributed, the buff-breasted sandpipers do
not seem to be common except on their northern breeding grounds,
and in some of their southern stopping places. In the spring migra-
tion they are abundant on the coast prairies of Texas and Louisiana
and are favorite game birds of the pot-hunters because they go in
dense flocks on the open prairie and yield many birds to few shots.


263. Actitis macularia (Linn.). SPOTTED SANDPIPER.

Small and slender, bill approximately the length of tarsus, or of middle
toe and claw. Adults in summer : entire upper parts bronzy or greenish
olive, faintly marked with dusky ; under parts white, marked, except on
middle of belly, with round spots of dusky ; quills dusky, secondaries
tipped with white, with a conspicuous white line along the middle of open
wing. Adults in winter : white of under parts unspotted. Young : like
winter adults but finely barred on wings and back with dusky and buff.
Length : 7-8, wing 4.05-4.60, bill .90-1.05, tarsus .90-1.05.

Remarks. In the field the spotted sandpiper can always be recognized
by its small size, plain gray color, and the conspicuous white bar along the
middle of the wing in flight.

Distribution. Whole of North America, breeding throughout most of
its range ; south in winter to Brazil and Uruguay.

Nest. On dry ground in tuft of grass or under low bush, lined with
leaves and grass. Eggs f 4, buffy, spotted with lilac, dark brown, and

Although never numerous or in flocks, the spotted sandpiper or
river sand peep is the commonest and best known of our sandpipers
over the country at large. There is hardly a patch of water from
the brooks in the mountain meadows to the rivers in the lowlands
which has not one or more pairs of these little quaker gray birds
picking along their shores with teetering gait, and with shrill peet-
weet, buzzing from stone to stone so fast that their wing tips seem



always to be pointing down as they fly, their whole bodies tipping
violently when they alight. This teetering motion, which becomes
ridiculously rapid under excitement or alarm, has given the bird its
familiar names of tip-up and teeter-tail.


General Characters. Bill curved and slender, longer than tarsus ; front
of tarsus with transverse scutellae ; toes webbed at base.


1. Bill of adult longer than tarsus and middle toe ; crown not striped.

longirostris, p. 101.
1'. Bill not longer than tarsus and middle toe.

2. Crown black with middle line of buff . . . hudsoiiicus, p. 102.

2'. Crown specked, without middle line of buff . . borealis, p. 102.

264. Numenius longirostris Wils. LONG-BILLED CUHLEW.

Plumage light cinnamon, barred and mottled on upper parts with dusky
and black ; outer webs of outer quills wholly black ; head, neck, throat,
and chest streaked with dusky ; crown mainly dusky ; belly plain cinna-
mon ; chin whitish. Length : 20-26, wing 10-11, bill 2.30 in young of
year to 8.50 in old birds ; tarsus 3.00-3.50.

Distribution. Whole of temperate North America, breeding from
Texas to Canada, migrating to Guatemala, Cuba, and Jamaica.

Nest. A depression in the ground lined with grass. Eggs : 3 or 4,
grayish buff to pale buffy brown, spotted with dark brown and lilac.

On the prairies in migration you sometimes see a flock of a
hundred curlew flying high overhead in long shifting lines of form-
ing and dissolving wedges ; and on the irrigated fields of the in-
terior, in marked contrast to the white moving throng of small bob-
bing snipe and sandpipers, you often find a small company of the
big, brown, round-backed Numenius with their long, curved bills
down before them, stalking along with dignified demeanor. As
they rise and fly you get a flash of rich, warm color, and your ear is
startled by their stirring clarion call. When they come to earth,
like other waders they raise their wings over the back for an instant
with most striking effect.

When an intruder approaches their breeding grounds they often
come over the prairie to meet him and circle around with wild cries
and shrill laughter.

There is little excuse for killing these splendid birds for game, as
they make too easy a mark for any true sportsman, and when taken
are of little use, as their flesh is tough and dry.

Colonel Goss gives their food as worms, crickets, beetles, grass-
hoppers, small snails, crabs, and crawfish, and says that they reach
for the crabs with their long bills and pull them out of their holes,
and probe for larvae that come near the surface in spring.


265. Numenius hudsonicus Lath. HUDSONIAN CURLEW.

Smaller than longirostris, with shorter bill and duller coloration ; quills
plain dusky. Upper parts specked, mottled, and barred with dusky and
buff ; crown black with middle and side lines of buff ; a dusky stiipe
through eye ; under parts buffy, barred and streaked on sides, chest, and
neck with dusky. Length : 16.50-18.00, wing 9.00-10.25, biU 3-4, tarsus

Distribution. Nearly the whole of North and South America and the
West Indies, breeding in the far north and wintering in the southern
United States and southward.

Nest. A depression in the ground lined with grass and leaves. Eggs :
usually 4, creamy to pale olive, spotted with dull brown.

The Hudsonian curlew is common on the coasts but rare in the
interior. In habits as well as general appearance it is similar to the
long-billed curlew.

266. Numenius borealis (Forst.). ESKIMO CURLEW.

Similar to hudsonicus but smaller, with slenderer bill ; crown faintly
specked with buffy on black, and without a distinct median line of buff.
Length : 12.60-14.50, wing 8.00-8.50, bill 2.25-2.50, tarsus 1.70-1.80.

Distribution. Eastern North America, breeding in arctic regions and
migrating to southern South America ; now nearly extinct.

Nest and eggs. Similar to those of hudsonicus.

The Eskimo curlew was formerly an abundant migrant on the
plains east of the Rocky Mountains.



1. Hind toe present but small Squatarola, p. 102.

1'. Hind toe wanting.

2. Upper parts spotted, belly black in summer, grayish in winter.

Charadrius, p. 103.

2'. Upper parts plain, belly always white .... -SJgialitis, p. 103.


270. Squatarola squatarola (Linn.).

Hind toe minute ; bill rather short. Adults
in summer : face, throat, and belly black, bor-
dered with white ; upper parts spotted with
black and white ; upper tail coverts white at
base ; outer half of tail barred with dusky.
Adults in winter: under parts white, overlaid,
streaked, and mottled with dusky and gray,
becoming creamy or white on anal region ;
upper parts spotted with gray and dusky.
Young : like winter adults, but spotted above
with light yellow, gray, and black. Length :
10.50-12.00, wing 7.50, bill 1.10, tarsus 1.95.
Fig. 119. Distribution. Nearly cosmopolitan, but


chiefly in the northern hemisphere, breeding far north ; south in winter in
America to Brazil.

Nest. A depression in the ground lined with old grass. Eggs : 4, light
buffy olive, spotted with dark brown or black.

"I have found this species quite common upon both coasts but
rare inland, where it seldom stops except to rest on its migratory
flights to and from its breeding-grounds. ... In habits it is similar
to the golden plover. " (Goss.)


272. Charadrius dominions Mull. GOLDEN PLOVER.

Hind toe wanting, bill small and slender. Adults in summer: upper
parts black or dusky, spotted with bright yellow and white ; face, throat,
and belly black, bordered with a line of white ; tail dusky, barred with
gray or yellow. Adults in winter : under parts mottled dusky gray ; back
less golden than in summer. Young : like winter adults, but with upper
parts more golden, and yellow wash over neck and breast. Length : 9.50-
10.80, wing 6.80-7.40, bill .80-1.00, tarsus 1.55-1.82.

Distribution. North and South America, breeding in arctic regions,
and migrating to Patagonia.

Nest. A slight depression in the moss or dry grass. Eggs : 4, pale
grayish or olive buff to buffy brown, spotted with dark brown or black.

In the United States the golden plover is a common migrant east
of the Rocky Mountains, but less frequently seen toward the Pacific


General Characters. Hind toe wanting ; bill much shorter than head ;
colors plain, with or without black bands.

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 14 of 65)