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Evie12

Different shorebirds

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Hello, I saw these birds on the Gulf Coast of Florida in March. Thank you so much!

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  1. Nonbreeding/juvenile Sanderling - note the clean white breast/belly.
  2. Breeding and Nonbreeding Sandwich Terns - note the pale-tipped black bill, shaggy black crown, and white forehead when in nonbreeding plumage.
  3. and 4. Nonbreeding Willets - note the large size, grayish-brown overall, and thick, long, straight bill.
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Willet are the Western subspecies (really species) by the tall legs (almost godwit-like look), thin, long bill, and pale gray coloring.

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19 minutes ago, akiley said:

Willet are the Western subspecies (really species) by the tall legs (almost godwit-like look), thin, long bill, and pale gray coloring.

Are you saying that Willets should be split? I have heard of that for many reasons, such as size, call, range, and lack of interbreeding. Do you know why they aren't doing it?

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40 minutes ago, akandula said:

Are you saying that Willets should be split? I have heard of that for many reasons, such as size, call, range, and lack of interbreeding. Do you know why they aren't doing it?

They should definitely be split. I haven't heard a single opinion otherwise. It's a general consensus and kind of a running joke that they haven't been split. The issue is with the AOS/AOU committee who rules on this. The split was once sent in as a proposal years ago, and was rejected. The problem is that for it to get split, someone would have to write a whole new proposal to them, which hasn't been done yet. I don't know who's going to.

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They are genetically distinct, no breeding overlap whatsoever (completely different ranges), significant visual differences, calls and songs are different, different molt timings and migration patterns, etc.

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31 minutes ago, akiley said:

They are genetically distinct, no breeding overlap whatsoever (completely different ranges), significant visual differences, calls and songs are different, different molt timings and migration patterns, etc.

Well, yeah, sure; but other than that they're completely identical.  😁

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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Thank you! This is an interesting discussion, especially for a novice like me.

I just want to make sure I am understanding correctly... There are Western Willet and  Eastern Willet which are distinct, but not officially recognized as distinct? And the ones I photographed above are the Western version? Is that right?

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10 minutes ago, Evie12 said:

Thank you! This is an interesting discussion, especially for a novice like me.

I just want to make sure I am understanding correctly... There are Western Willet and  Eastern Willet which are distinct, but not officially recognized as distinct? And the ones I photographed above are the Western version? Is that right?

Yes that's correct. They're not officially split by the taxonomy authorities but it's almost universally accepted that they're two species. And you gave Westerns.

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