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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Short-billed Dowitcher -- Limnodromus griseus

RANGE: Breeds from southern Yukon to northeastern Mackenzie, south to east-central British Columbia, and across to central Saskatchewan; from the interior of the Ungava Peninsula south to northern Ontario, and in coastal regions of southern Alaska. Nonbreeding birds often occur south to wintering grounds in summer. Winters from central California, southern Arizona, the Gulf Coast, and coastal South Carolina south to South America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Primarily inhabits coniferous forest and muskeg with thin crusts of moss and long grass floating on a liquid morass, but also inhabits swampy coastal tundra. Low scrub of willow, alder, and birch are often present, with a few taller larch and spruce, sometimes flanked by dry ridges of dense coniferous forest or burned-over forests. After breeding, moves to open prairie lakes and sloughs. During migration and winter, occurs on mud and sand flats in sheltered bays and estuaries, on the borders of shallow pools in salt marshes, on sandy beaches, and in flooded fields.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Swampy coastal tundra or muskeg.

NEST: Nests in a hollow in mosses, in a clump of grasses, or on dry ground in wet areas. Sometimes nests in a small clearing in coniferous forest near muskeg, but not under trees or in broken terrain.

FOOD: Feeds by probing deeply in wet sand, mud, in shallow water, or in seaweeds. Eats flies, beetles, dragonfly nymphs, and other insects, as well as marine worms, snails, crabs, shrimps, and seeds of marsh and aquatic plants.

REFERENCES: Cramp and Simmons 1983, Palmer 1967, Sperry 1940.

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