Plump, medium-sized shorebird with very long bill. Extremely similar to Long-billed Dowitcher, and often flocks with it. Best distinguished by voice: a rapid series of notes, “tu-tu-tu”, lower-pitched and almost always in a series, unlike single piercing “keek!” of Long-billed. At all ages, look for subtle structural differences: Short-billed averages flatter-backed, slightly shorter-billed, and slightly shorter, especially noticeable when in a mixed flock. Breeding birds are intricately patterned with a variable amount of orange on the underparts. Short-billed usually has some white on the belly, and paler upperparts with bolder golden and white markings. Also look for messy and extensive spotting on sides, not sparsely barred like Long-billed Dowitcher. Nonbreeding plumage is brownish-gray overall with a paler belly; extremely similar to Long-billed but averaging slightly paler and more patterned, especially on the breast and sides. Juveniles are easiest to identify: look for bright golden markings on the tertials and scapulars. Short-billed breeds in grassy wetlands and tundra, and can be found in a variety of wetland habitats in migration and winter. A very early fall migrant, with southbound birds appearing in the U.S. by late June. Usually in flocks, feeding actively like a sewing machine. Tends to favor saltwater marshes, beaches, and mudflats. Somewhat less likely in freshwater habitats than Long-billed, but much overlap, especially the hendersoni subspecies that migrates primarily through the center of the continent.
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