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Dowitcher ID, please help!


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I observed this single dowitcher today, August 12, 2021 in Fort Worth, TX. My sister and I are new birders, and we can't decide if this is a long-billed or a short-billed. We didn't hear it call, and it was far away, so I know that these pictures may not confirm an ID.

Please help! I want to learn so that I can get better at these!

DOWITCHER1.JPG

DOWITCHER2.JPG

DOWITCHER3.JPG

DOWITCHER4.JPG

DOWITCHER5.JPG

DOWITCHER6.JPG

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20 hours ago, Quiscalus quiscula said:

You'll get better at dowitcher ID as time goes on and you get the gist of shape and minor details in appearance.

I think people get better at dowitcher ID as they realize that shape and visual appearance is only one part of the ID puzzle, and that in some cases a visual ID is not possible. But by paying attention to other pieces of the puzzle (habitat, location, migration timing, VOCALIZATIONS, etc) you can often arrive at an ID even when a visual ID is not possible. It’s also worth noting that visual ID is fairly easy with juveniles and fresh alternate plumage adults.

The bird in the picture above is a worn alternate plumage Dowitcher. This is one of the more difficult plumages to reliably separate visually. It still looks overall more like a Long-billed to me and that’s probably more likely at an inland location, but it never hurts to be cautious and use the “Dowitcher sp” option when dealing with nonvocal adult dowitchers in worn alternate or basic plumage

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1 hour ago, AlexHenry said:

I think people get better at dowitcher ID as they realize that shape and visual appearance is only one part of the ID puzzle, and that in some cases a visual ID is not possible. But by paying attention to other pieces of the puzzle (habitat, location, migration timing, VOCALIZATIONS, etc) you can often arrive at an ID even when a visual ID is not possible. It’s also worth noting that visual ID is fairly easy with juveniles and fresh alternate plumage adults.

The bird in the picture above is a worn alternate plumage Dowitcher. This is one of the more difficult plumages to reliably separate visually. It still looks overall more like a Long-billed to me and that’s probably more likely at an inland location, but it never hurts to be cautious and use the “Dowitcher sp” option when dealing with nonvocal adult dowitchers in worn alternate or basic plumage

Yes, I agree. It seems like you put a lot of emphasis on dowitcher calls, which I understand, but shape can also be useful as part of the identification.

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8 minutes ago, Quiscalus quiscula said:

True, which is why it's only part of it, along with markings and vocalization.

And habitat, location, migration timing - for example, a Dowitcher in Kansas or Colorado in late October or November is almost 100% certainly a Long-billed, whereas an early fall migrant (early meaning late June to early July) adult Dowitcher on saltwater coastal mudflats is almost certainly a Short-billed.

The Hendersoni subspecies of Short-billed migrates through the middle of the continent and that can make things tough. In general, Short-billed are earlier migrants though, and Long-billed are vastly more likely to winter inland

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Just now, AlexHenry said:

And habitat, location, migration timing - for example, a Dowitcher in Kansas or Colorado in late October or November is almost 100% certainly a Long-billed, whereas an early fall migrant (early meaning late June to early July) adult Dowitcher on saltwater coastal mudflats is almost certainly a Short-billed.

The Hendersoni subspecies of Short-billed migrates through the middle of the continent and that can make things tough. In general, Short-billed are earlier migrants though, and Long-billed are vastly more likely to winter inland

Yes, definitely.

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