Friday, August 12, 2016

Friday's Foto

Shorebirds are now heading south to their wintering grounds with huge numbers stopping to rest and refuel around NYC, most notably, at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The Least Sandpiper in one of the more common (and easily identified) "peeps" encountered.

The smallest of the world's shorebird species, they are not much larger than a sparrow. Their small size, distinctive yellow-green legs and feet make them easy to separate from the more perplexing ID of the similar Baird's, Semipalmated, Western and White-rumped Sandpipers.

Breeding in bogs, boreal forest, sedge meadows and wet tundra from Alaska east across northern Canada to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, they winter from the southern US through the northern half of South America. According to Cornell, "Eastern populations probably fly nonstop over the ocean from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and New England to wintering grounds in northeastern South America, a distance of about 1,800 to 2,500 miles". Their diet consists of small crustaceans, insects and snails. In spring on the Atlantic Coast they also feed on horseshoe crab eggs. The longer billed females supplement their diets with seeds of marsh grasses, including smartweed and panic grass.

The IUCN Red List lists their conservation status as "Least Concern". While their populations appear stable, they may have experienced declines over the last few decades. They are not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List. One of their biggest conservation concerns today is wetland degradation and destruction

Their scientific name, Calidris minutilla, means "grey-coloured water-side bird" mentioned by Aristotle and "very small".

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