This shorebird is somewhat similar in structure to a Lesser Yellowlegs, but the bill is proportionally longer, heavier at the base and noticeably drooped near the tip. In all plumages, the legs are a dull yellow-green. The wing tips extend beyond the tail. Alternate Adult: The upperparts are very dark brown with whitish feather edges. The neck and upper breast are finely streaked with brown and white. The white underparts are heavily barred dark brown. Bright rufous on the auriculars and crown, and the white supercilium contrast sharply with the overall dark brown color scheme. Males are slightly brighter colored than females. Basic Adult: Upperparts are a fairly uniform pale gray-brown with a whitish supercilium. The neck and upper breast are finely streaked and washed the same pale gray-brown, fading to white on the belly. Juvenile: In fresh plumage, dark upperparts have pale feather edges, creating a scaly pattern. Neck, sides, and scapulars are washed with rufous. As the plumage wears, the rufous color fades and the bird more closely resembles Basic Adult. In Flight: In basic plumage, white uppertail coverts create a white patch on the rump. These feathers are barred in alternate plumage. Underside of wing is gray, with white axillaries and underwing coverts. The long legs extend beyond the end of the tail. In basic and juvenile plumages this species is most similar to Lesser Yellowlegs, Dunlin and Curlew Sandiper (rare in U.S). Lesser Yellowlegs has a thinner straight bill with no droop, while both Dunlin and Curlew Sanpipers have blackish legs and show white wing lines in flight, which is lacking in Stilt Sandpiper.
Length: 20 (cm) Wingspan: 38 (cm)
Call is a low, hoarse querp.
Breeds in wet tundra and sedge meadows. In migration, found in freshwater marshes and ponds, coastal lagoons.
Bill often held pointed downward at a right angle to the line of the back. Feeding style is helpful in separating from dowitchers, with which this species often flocks. Usually moves about as it forages and its longer legs and shorter bill require it to rock forward farther when probing, causing the tail to stick up in the air higher. Dowitchers tend to remain stationary and exhibit a more horizontal posture as they engage in more extended "sewing machine" probing.
Often feeds in belly-deep water, probing down, like a dowitcher (see above) as it seeks invertebrates and seeds.
Expanded Life History
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