Shorebird Migration

By deweidemann August 4, 2014

Do you know which species of shorebird this is? Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) photographed by Ted Lee Eubanks.

It’s shorebird migration season again! With millions of shorebirds flying south from the arctic (and other northern places), it’s time to welcome the first migrants of fall 2014 to the Caribbean. As a group, shorebirds are one of the Caribbean’s most important and abundant migrants. And during migration, every day can bring new birds to your favorite shorebird habitat. To help you enjoy this year’s shorebirds, here are some suggestions and tips from eBird Caribbean.

  • If possible, submit your shorebird sightings as Caribbean Waterbird Census (CWC) checklists. The CWC is trying to collect more data from seasons other than winter, and this is a great time to start submitting CWC checklists again if you haven’t submitted anything since February.
  • Look for unusual species. Already, the first record of Red-necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis) for Florida, USA, was discovered this July in the Florida Keys. Shorebird migration still has months to go. Who knows what other exciting species will be found in the Caribbean this year!
  • If you do think you’ve found a rare species, remember, shorebirds can be very difficult to identify. Most are molting from breeding plumage to non-breeding plumage and juvenile birds look different than adults. Be careful with your identification. Careful observation and documentation (notes, sketches, photographs, or video) are important when learning shorebirds and critical if you find a rare bird. Do your best to obtain good photographs or video of any unusual species. That way eBird Caribbean reviewers will be able to confirm your sighting quickly. See this previous eBird Caribbean article for more resources on shorebird identification and documentation.
  • Lastly, the most interesting bird you find this year might not be a rare species. Large numbers of shorebirds have been individually marked (with either colored rings or flags on the birds’ legs) by several research groups and will be traveling through the Caribbean. If you see one of these birds, record the color combination and any letters and numbers (photographs preferred!) and submit the information to (certain species only) or the USGS band reporting website.

Have fun shorebirding!

Doug Weidemann

Thanks to Ted Lee Eubanks for use of the photographs.