The article “A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying 12 Shorebirds in Illinois” is an exciting and informative resource for bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. With its focus on the vibrant and lively shorebirds found in Illinois, this guide provides valuable insights into how to identify and appreciate these fascinating creatures. From the stunning mating displays to the intriguing territorial defense behaviors, the shorebirds in Illinois never fail to captivate observers. What makes this guide particularly valuable is its acknowledgement that some of these shorebirds do not exclusively inhabit the shore, which emphasizes the versatility and adaptability of these species. However, identifying shorebirds can be a challenging task, as they often share similar appearances and migratory patterns. Fear not, as this guide includes beautiful pictures, detailed descriptions, and fun facts for each of the 12 featured species, which are the Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Sanderling, Wilson’s Snipe, American Woodcock, and Wilson’s Phalarope. Get ready to embark on an unforgettable journey as you learn more about these captivating shorebirds that call Illinois their home.
The Semipalmated Plover, a small shorebird found in Illinois, is easily recognizable by its distinct appearance. It has a short, slender bill and a round head, giving it a cute and friendly expression. Its upperparts are brownish-gray, while its underparts are white, with a single dark breast band. Another noteworthy feature is its semi-webbed feet, which explains its name “semipalmated.”
Although the name suggests otherwise, the Semipalmated Plover does not exclusively live by the shore. While it can be found on sandy beaches during migration and winter, it can also be seen in a variety of other habitats such as mudflats, salt pans, and even plowed fields. It is quite adaptable and can be found in both coastal and inland areas of Illinois.
With its energetic and lively nature, the Semipalmated Plover is always a joy to observe. It is constantly on the move, running and chasing after prey along the water’s edge. This little bird has a distinct feeding behavior known as “run-stop-peck,” where it dashes forward, halts abruptly, and quickly pecks at any potential food it spots. It also forms small flocks during migration, creating an amusing spectacle as they dart around in unison.
Mating and Breeding
During the breeding season, which takes place in the Arctic tundra, the male Semipalmated Plover performs an elaborate courtship display to attract a mate. This display includes flights, calling, and various postures. Once a pair is formed, they build a nest on the ground, typically on a gravelly or sandy surface. The female lays four eggs, which both parents take turns incubating. After the eggs hatch, the young plovers quickly become mobile and are able to feed themselves within a day or two.
Did you know that the Semipalmated Plover holds the record for the longest non-stop flight among shorebirds? It is capable of flying over 4,000 miles from South America to its breeding grounds in the Arctic. Additionally, these plovers have a unique behavior called “foot-trembling,” where they vibrate one leg rapidly to disturb insects hiding in the mud, making them easier to catch.
The Killdeer, a medium-sized shorebird commonly found in Illinois, boasts a distinctive appearance. It has a brownish-gray back, white underparts, and striking black and white bands across its chest and forehead. One of its most recognizable features is its long, slender legs, which help it navigate various terrains with ease.
Contrary to its name, the Killdeer can be found in a range of habitats beyond the shoreline. It is often observed on open fields, meadows, and even suburban yards. These adaptable birds have also been known to nest on gravel rooftops and rocky surfaces. Their ability to thrive in diverse environments makes them a common sight throughout Illinois.
The Killdeer is a highly active and vigilant bird that is always on the move. It is known for its distinctive call, a loud and repetitive “kill-deer” that echoes across its surroundings. This call is often used as a warning and to establish territory. When it feels threatened, the Killdeer employs a clever “broken-wing” display, feigning injury to divert attention away from its nest or young.
Mating and Breeding
During courtship, the male Killdeer engages in an elaborate aerial display, flying high above the ground and making various calls. Once paired, the couple constructs a nest on the ground, typically in a shallow depression lined with rocks or shells. The female lays four speckled eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. The hatchlings are precocial, meaning they are able to move and feed themselves shortly after hatching.
One fascinating fact about the Killdeer is that it has an extra hinged joint in its neck, allowing it to bend and maneuver its head in various positions. This flexibility helps it scan the surroundings for potential threats and prey. Additionally, the Killdeer has a unique method of cooling its eggs during hot weather. By repeatedly wetting its breast feathers and then sitting on the eggs, it can provide temporary relief from the heat.