Birds of the World – Willet

Closely related to the last genus, but distinguished by having the inner and middle, as well as the middle and outer, toes webbed, is the genus Catoptrophorus, including only the monotypic North American Willet (C. semipalmatus), which is so called from its continuously repeated Alarm cry of pilly-will-willet, pilly-will-willet. They are large birds, from fifteen to seventeen inches long, brownish gray barred with dusky above and white below, the fore neck streaked, and the breast and sides heavily barred or spotted with dusky; there is also a conspicuous white wing patch. In the winter plumage the upper parts are unmarked brownish gray and the lower parts immaculate white. The western form (C. s. inornatus), separated on the basis of its slightly larger size and paler, less heavily marked summer plumage, is confined to the western United States, breeding from Texas to Manitoba, and spending the winter mainly along the Gulf coast. The Willets are found in flocks in the vicinity of both salt and fresh water, but especially the salt marshes and shoals, where they may often be seen wading about in the shallow water. They are shy, watchful birds, not easily decoyed, and enjoying a swift, graceful flight, which is made conspicuous by the white wing patches. If the nest is approached, the birds fly wildly about or hover over the intruder, ” vociferating with great violence,” and at times they become a great nuisance to sportsmen from giving the alarm to all birds within hearing distance. The eggs, usually four in number, are deep drab, thickly spotted with chocolate.