Birds – Dowitchers

With a well-developed web at the base between the front toes, but otherwise quite well agreeing with the species of Gallinago, are the Dowitchers (Macrorhamphus), of which three species are recognized. The best-known form is the Common Dowitcher (M. griseus) of eastern North America, which breeds within the Arctic Circle and spends the winter from Florida to South America. It attains a length of ten or eleven inches, the summer plumage being largely black above with the feathers edged or barred with rufous or buff, the tail and its coverts being white, barred with blackish, while the lower parts are pale rufous, becoming whitish on the abdomen and more or less barred or spotted with black. In winter nearly the whole plumage is ashy gray, somewhat intermixed with whitish, the abdomen being usually unspotted white. The bill, it may be added, is flattened, expanded, and somewhat corrugated at the end. The Dowitchers, Red-breasted, or Gray Snipe, as they are variously called, are shore or bay birds, frequenting often in large flocks the bars and mud flats ex-posed by the receding tide. They move in compact flocks, and answering readily to the decoys are frequently decimated by the gunner who lies in wait. Distinguished by its larger size, much longer bill, and brighter color is the Long-billed Dowitcher (M. scolopaceus), chiefly of the interior and western provinces of North America from Alaska to Mexico, while on the Asiatic side the place is taken by the still larger M. taczanowskii, which breeds in eastern Siberia and in winter visits the Burmese countries.