Birds – Stilt Sandpiper

(Micropalama himantopus)

Called also : LONG-LEGGED SANDPIPER. Length—About 9 inches.

Male and Female: In Summer—Feathers on upper parts blackish, each bordered with gray or buff or tawny, the markings scalloped on the shoulders; wings darker; ears, and an indistinct line around back of head, rusty red; lower back ashy; upper tail coverts white with dusky bars; tail ashy, the centre and edges of the feathers white. Under parts white, streaked and barred with dusky. Bill nearly as long as a snipe’s, and flattened and pitted at the tip. Legs very long. Both bill and feet greenish black. In Winter: Upper parts brownish or ashy gray, the feathers edged with white; a white line like an eyebrow; upper tail coverts white, the tail feathers white margined with brownish ash; throat and sides streaked with gray; under parts white.

Range—Eastern North America, nesting within the Arctic Circle, wintering from Florida and the Gulf States to Brazil and Peru.

Season—Spring and autumn migrant, May; July to October.

From the Arctic Circle to Peru is surely a journey to warrant frequent and long breaks; but only rarely do we hear of a small, open flock of these tireless travellers resting awhile on the sand flats of our coast or the muddy channels of the rivers inland to fortify themselves with a square meal before continuing their rapid flight. Like most birds that spend part of their lives at least in Arctic desolation, these sandpipers, not knowing man, have little fear of him, being of the same gentle, confiding disposition, apparently, as the dowitchers, with which they may some-times be found, lured by the sportsman’s decoys. Four birds, watched on a Long Island beach, were wading about in a pool left by the receding tide; and as they tipped forward, thrusting their sensitive bills into the soft sand to feel after food, and often immersing their heads to secure a worm or snail buried there, it seemed as if the top-heavy little waders must upset from their long, slender props. Yet when they walked—for they do not run as actively as true sandpipers, this species being a connecting link between sandpipers and snipe—they moved grace-fully and easily. One characteristic they have that reminds one of the avocet and black-necked stilt: on alighting they first teeter, then stand motionless as if to steady themselves and make sure of their balance. Colonel Goss tells of their squatting to avoid detection, flying only as a last resort, then darting swiftly away, calling a sharp tweet, tweet.