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Birds of the St. Croix River Valley: Minnesota and Wisconsin

FAMILY SCOLOPACIDAE

Sandpipers and Phalaropes


Hudsonian Godwit -- Marbled Godwit -- Whimbrel -- Long-billed Curlew -- Upland Sandpiper -- Greater Yellowlegs -- Lesser Yellowlegs -- Solitary Sandpiper -- Willet -- Spotted Sandpiper -- Ruddy Turnstone -- Wilson's Phalarope -- Northern Phalarope -- American Woodcock -- Common Snipe -- Short-billed Dowitcher -- Long-billed Dowitcher -- Red Knot -- Sanderling -- Semipalmated Sandpiper -- Western Sandpiper -- Least Sandpiper -- White-rumped Sandpiper -- Baird's Sandpiper -- Pectoral Sandpiper -- Dunlin -- Stilt Sandpiper -- Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Rare spring migrant in the Western Upland and at Crex Meadows, Burnett County. Most records are from central St. Croix and eastern Washington counties. There are no fall records. The first migrants arrive 5-10 May. Flocks as large as 40 individuals have been observed 15-20 May and departure occurs by 30 May.

Habitat: Most individuals are observed on temporarily flooded agricultural fields. Occasional use is made of flooded alfalfa fields and edges of man-made impoundments.


Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Rare and local migrant in the Western Upland and at Crex Meadows, Burnett County; most records are from central St. Croix County. Spring migrants arrive about 20 April. Peak numbers (five to seven) occur 1-10 May; departure is by 25 May. Fall migrants arrive about 25 July depart by 1 September. W. Norling observed an injured marbled godwit at Grettum Flowage, Burnett County, on 8 November 1975.

Habitat: Observed primarily on temporarily flooded agricultural fields and along the edge of seasonally flooded wetlands.


Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

Status: Accidental, one record.

Record: I observed one whimbrel along the north shore of East Twin Lake near Roberts, St. Croix County, on 17 May 1976.


Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus)

Status: Accidental, one record.

Record: N. R. Stone observed one long-billed curlew at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, on 25 May 1966 (Stone 1967).


Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species.

Migration: Rare spring and fall migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, casual to absent elsewhere. Spring migrants arrive 20-25 April. Because most observations are of solitary or paired birds, dates of peak abundance are difficult to establish. Fall migrants begin to arrive in late July and have departed by 15 September.

Nesting Season Distribution: Rare and local nesting species in suitable grass habitat in the Western Upland and Central Plain, locally common at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, and at the Sharp-tailed Grouse Management Area near Solon Springs, Douglas County. The latter site has been used since at least 1919, when Jackson (1942) found "a dozen or more." Green and Janssen (1975) considered the upland sandpiper "very scarce" in Pine County. One nest was found in Washington County in 1971. In northern Pierce and central St. Croix counties, this species was fairly common until 1972. Increased conversion of remaining grasslands, primarily related to ending the Soil Bank Program, has caused their apparent extirpation in these two counties.

Habitat: Characteristic nesting species of tallgrass prairie such as at the Sharp-tailed Grouse Area, Douglas County, and in sedge meadows. Also regularly observed in unmowed alfalfa and timothy fields.


Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleucus)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Fairly common migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, uncommon in the Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive 30 March to 10 April. Peak abundance occurs 20 April to 5 May and departure by 25 May. The first fall migrants arrive about 10 July (earliest-3 July 1963, Burnett County). Peak abundance occurs 10-20 August, and departure by 30 October (latest-7 November 1975 and 10 November 1963, Burnett County).

Habitat: Greater yellowlegs occur in a variety of wetlands, flooded grasslands, plowed agricultural fields, Northern Sedge Meadow, and along the edge of seasonally, semipermanently, and permanently flooded wetlands. Primary use is made of flooded agricultural fields.


Lesser yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Common to locally abundant migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, uncommon and local in the Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive in the Western Upland 30 March to 5 April and the Northern Highland 10-15 April. Peak abundance occurs 1-10 May and departure by 30 May. The first fall migrants arrive about 10 July (earliest-4 July 1975, St. Croix County and 5 July 1960, Burnett County). Peak abundance occurs 1-10 August and departure by 15 October (latest-8 November 1975 and 10 November 1963, Burnett County).

Habitat: Lesser Yellowlegs occur in a variety of wetland types, flooded alfalfa fields, and agricultural fields. Primary use is made of flooded agricultural fields.


Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Uncommon migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, rare and local in the Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive 25-30 April. Peak abundance occurs from 5-15 May and departure by 25 May. Fall migrants arrive 5-15 July. Peak fall abundance occurs 25 July to 20 August and departure by 25 September (latest-10 October 1969, Washington County).

Habitat: Primarily found on flooded agricultural fields and the muddy edges of wetlands. This species is occasionally observed in Northern Sedge Meadow and Shrub Carr wetlands.


Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Rare migrant in the Western Upland, casual elsewhere. Spring migrants arrive about 30 April. Willets are most frequently observed 5-10 May and remain through 25 May. The first fall migrants arrive about 25 July and have departed by 1 September.

Habitat: Willets are found primarily on temporarily and seasonally floooded wetlands. K. H. Dueholm observed a flock of 20 in a flooded alfalfa field Polk County on 30 April 1975.


Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species.

Migration: Common migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, uncommon and local in the Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive in the Western Upland 20-30 April (earliest-2 April 1953, Burnett County) and peak abundance occurs 5-15 May. Peak fall abundance occurs during mid-August and departure by 1 October.

Nesting Season Distribution: Fairly common nesting species throughout the Valley. Nest records and observations of breeding pairs have been obtained from all the counties.

Habitat: Primarily a nesting species of seasonally, semipermanently, and permanently flooded wetlands in the Western Upland and Central Plain. This species also makes extensive use of river edge and exposed islands in larger streams. Largely restricted to rivers, streams, and rocky or sandy shores of large lakes in the Northern Highland.


Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Rare and local migrant throughout the Valley. Spring migrants arrive about 10 May and are most commonly observed 15-25 May. Departure occurs by 5 June (latest-10 June 1972, Burnett County). The observation of 18 ruddy turnstones on Lake Chisago, Chisago County (Roberts 1938), constitutes the largest group reported in the Valley. Fall migrants arrive about 20 August and have departed by 20 September.

Habitat: Ruddy turnstones primarily use sandy beaches associated with larger lakes and the shoreline of the St. Croix River. Occasional use is made of seasonally flooded wetlands.


Wilson's Phalarope (Steganopus tricolor)

Status: Regular migrant and summer resident, one nest record.

Migration: Fairly common migrant in the Western Upland, locally common in St. Croix County. Rare and local in the Central Plain and Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive 20-25 April. Peak abundance occurs 10-15 May and departure by 1 June. The first fall migrants arrive 20-30 July. Peak abundance occurs 10-25 August and departure by 15 September.

Nesting Season Distribution: I observed an adult male with at least two young that still retained some down feathers on 10 July 1978 in St. Croix County. The wetland where this brood was observed (Sec. 11, T. 29 N., R. 18 W.) occasionally supports breeding plumaged adults during the nesting season in wet years. Numerous nesting season records from this wetland ranging from 9 June (1964) to 17 July (1961) suggest that nesting may have occurred earlier. Summer records from Crex Meadows, Burnett County (26 June 1974 and 27 June 1972), suggest that Wilson's phalarope may also nest at that location.

Habitat: Wilson's phalaropes use several wetland types during migration, including seasonally and semipermanently flooded wetlands. Summer records are from wetlands where cattail and river bulrush are the predominant vegetation types.


Northern Phalarope (Lobipes lobatus)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Rare migrant in the Western Upland and at Crex Meadows, Burnett County. Casual elsewhere. Spring migrants arrive about 10 May (earliest-30 April 1974 and 1 May 1975, St. Croix County). Northern phalaropes are most commonly observed during the third week of May and depart by 5 June. Fall migrants arrive in mid-August (earliest-20 July 1975, St. Croix County) and depart by 15 September.

Habitat: Northern phalaropes are usually observed on semipermanently and permanently flooded wetlands that have poorly developed shoreline or emergent aquatic vegetation.


American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species.

Migration: Common migrant throughout the Valley. Spring migrants arrive about 25 March (earliest-14 March 1951, Polk County and 17 March 1955, Burnett County) and peak abundance occurs 20 April to 1 May. Fall migration begins in mid-August. Peak fall abundance occurs 15 September to 1 October and departure by 1 November.

Nesting Season Distribution: Fairly common and well distributed nesting species. Nesting has been recorded in all counties. Surber (1919) made reference to the abundance of this species in Pine County during the early 1900's.

Habitat: American woodcock use a variety of habitats for nesting. In the Western Upland, nesting birds use mesic Southern Deciduous Forest and Lowland Deciduous Forest. In the Central Plain and Northern Highland, open stands of medium-aged aspen and maple forest and Alder Thickets provide optimum nesting habitat. Recently, Deciduous Clear Cuts have been found to provide important nesting habitat.


Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

Status: Regular migrant and nesting species, casual in winter.

Migration: Common to locally abundant migrant throughout the Valley. Spring migrants arrive in the Western Upland about 20 March, reaching the Northern Highland about 1 April. Peak abundance during spring migration occurs 20 April to 1 May. Fall migration begins with the flocking of family groups in mid-August. Peak abundance occurs between 25 September and 10 October and departure by 15 November.

Nesting Season Distribution: Uncommon nesting species in the Western Upland, common in the Central Plain and Northern Highland. Confirmed nest records have been obtained from Burnett and Polk counties.

Winter: There are eight late December records ranging from 19 December (1976) to 3 January (1976) in St. Croix and Washington counties. These are all CBC records. The largest count was 12 individuals on the Suburban St. Paul CBC, 30 December 1961. There is only one midwinter record (15 February 1973, Pierce County) for the Valley.

Habitat: Highest densities of nesting common snipe occur in Northern Sedge Meadow. Stream banks and semipermanently flooded wetlands provide important habitat in the Central Plain and Western Upland. In the Northern Highland, breeding common snipe use openings in Black Spruce-Tamarack Bogs and Alder Thicket, in addition to Northern Sedge Meadow.


Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Uncommon to rare migrant throughout the Valley. Most records are from the Western Upland and from Crex Meadows, Burnett County. Spring migrants arrive about 10 May and have departed by 30 May. Fall migrants arrive about 25 July (earliest-9 July 1965, St. Croix County) and have departed by 15 September. A short-billed dowitcher that I banded near Roberts, St. Croix County, on 16 August 1975 was recovered in Guyana, South America, in September 1976. Identification of this species and the long-billed dowitcher is compounded by nearly identical plumage characteristics.

Habitat: Largely restricted to flooded alfalfa and stubble fields and borders of seasonally and semipermanently flooded wetlands.


Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Uncommon migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, rare to absent in the Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive in the Western Upland 20-25 April and the Northern Highland about 1 May. This species is most frequently observed about 10 May and departs by 15 May. Fall migrants arrive about 10 August (earliest-17 July 1976, St. Croix County). Peak abundance occurs 25 August to 5 September and departure by 5 October (latest-25 and 28 October 1960, St. Croix County; Robbins 1961).

Correct identification of both dowitcher species is difficult because of their similar appearance. To assure positive identification, recognition of their call notes is important. The long-billed dowitcher has a short, two-note "twee twee" call. The short-billed dowitcher call consists of three notes in close succession. This call, "tu-tu-tu," is similar to the greater yellowlegs.

Habitat: Primarily a species of flooded agricultural fields, temporarily, seasonally, and semipermanently flooded wetlands.


Red Knot (Calidris canutus)

Status: Casual migrant.

Records: Single red knots were observed in St. Croix County on 12 May 1966 and 13 May 1975. Three birds were observed at Crex Meadows, Burnett County, on 19 May 1972, and single birds on 13 June 1968 and 17 August 1960 (Kemper 1961).


Sanderling (Calidris alba)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Rare spring and very rare fall migrant in the Western Upland and at Crex Meadows, Burnett County; absent in the northern forested regions. Spring migrants arrive about 10 May (earliest-30 April 1973, St. Croix County and 2 May 1969, Washington County) and have departed by 30 May. Fall migration is between 15 August and 10 September.

Habitat: Sanderlings are primarily found on sandy or rocky beaches associated with large lakes and sandbars on the St. Croix River. Occasional use is made of drier portions of exposed mud associated with seasonally flooded wetlands and man-made impoundments.


Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusillus)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Common to locally abundant migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, rare and local in the Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive about 5 May, reaching peak abundance 15-30 May. Departure occurs 5-10 June (latest-13 June 1965 and 17 June 1977, St. Croix County). Fall migrants arrive about 20 July. Peak abundance occurs 10-20 August and departure by 5 October (latest-16 October 1964; Kemper 1965).

Habitat: Primarily a species of flooded agricultural fields, exposed edges of wetlands, man-made impoundments, and sandbars associated with islands in the St. Croix River.


Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri)

Status: Casual migrant.

Records: There are spring records from St. Croix County including 2-4 May 1975 (peak of 11 on 3 May), 13 May 1976, 25 May 1963, 31 May 1965, and 2 June 1966. There are five fall records including three in St. Croix County; 2 August 1977, 14 August 1975, and 19 August 1974. At Crex Meadows, Burnett County, one western sandpiper was observed on 15 and 21 August 1955, and on 12 October 1974.

Habitat: The St. Croix County observations included birds associated with the exposed edge of a semipermanently flooded wetland. The Burnett County record was obtained from the exposed edge of a man-made impoundment.


Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Common spring and fairly common fall migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, rare and local in the Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive about 30 April (earliest-23 April 1959, Burnett County). Peak abundance occurs 5-15 May and departure by 25 May. Fall migrants arrive 5-10 July (earliest-25 June 1972, Chisago County). Peak abundance occurs 25 July to 10 August and departure by 30 September.

Habitat: Primarily a species of flooded agricultural fields, exposed edges of wetlands, and sandbars associated with St. Croix River islands.


White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Fairly common spring migrant in the Western Upland, uncommon to rare elsewhere. Uncommon to rare throughout the Valley in fall. Spring migrants arrive about 10 May (earliest-20 April 1974, St. Croix County). Peak abundance occurs 20 May to 5 June and departure by 15 June. Fall migrants arrive about 20 July and depart by 15 September (latest-6 October 1964, Kemper 1965). Peak fall populations cannot be determined because of few records.

Habitat: Primarily a species of flooded agricultural fields and muddy edges of seasonally flooded wetlands.


Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Rare spring and uncommon fall migrant in the Western Upland, rare to absent elsewhere. Spring migrants arrive about 5 May (earliest-20 April 1974, St. Croix County) and depart by 5 June. Fall migrants return 15-20 August and depart by 15 September.

Habitat: Primarily a species of temporarily flooded agricultural fields and edges of seasonally flooded wetlands.


Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Common to locally abundant spring and common fall migrant in the Western Upland and Central Plain, uncommon in the Northern Highland. Spring migrants arrive about 15 April (earliest-4 April 1964 and 1976, St. Croix County) and peak abundance occurs 5-10 May. During this period, flocks of up to 150 individuals are commonly observed. Spring migrants depart by 1 June. Fall migrants return about 10 July, and peak abundance is 15 August to 1 September. Small flocks are observed in early October and departure occurs by 30 October (latest-15 November 1964, Burnett County; Kemper 1965).

Habitat: Pectoral sandpipers use a variety of wetland habitats including temporarily flooded, Northern Sedge Meadow, Shrub Carr, exposed muddy edges of seasonally flooded wetlands and man-made impoundments, and St. Croix River islands.


Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Uncommon migrant throughout the Valley. Spring migrants arrive about 5 May, reaching peak abundance 15-20 May. Departure occurs 1-5 June. Fall migrants arrive about 20 August and have departed by 10 October (latest-28 October 1960, St. Croix County).

Habitat: Primarily a species of temporarily and seasonally flooded wetlands, man-made impoundments, and St. Croix River islands.


Stilt Sandpiper (Micropalama himantopus)

Status: Regular migrant.

Migration: Rare spring and uncommon fall migrant in the Western Upland, rare to absent elsewhere. Spring migrants arrive about 5 May (earliest-19 April 1975, St. Croix County). Peak abundance occurs 15-20 May and departure by 25 May. Fall migrants arrive 25 July to 1 August and depart by 25 September.

Habitat: Primarily a species of seasonally flooded wetlands, muddy edges of man-made impoundments, and St. Croix River islands.


Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)

Status: Casual migrant.

Records: There are five records from central St. Croix County: 10 May 1974, 31 July 1967, 11 August 1975, 1 September 1968, and 9 September 1975.

Habitat: All St. Croix County records were obtained from the edge of a semipermanently flooded wetland in Sec.11, T. 29 N., R. 18 W.


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