Long-billed dowitchers wading in shallow water
Long-billed dowitchers Such a large percentage of the entire population of this bird uses the Central Flyway that the loss of Cheyenne Bottoms would be catastrophic to their survival. © Bob Gress/BirdsInFocus.com

Stories in Kansas

Long-billed Dowitcher

February 2018 Shorebird of the Month

Robert Penner stands with crossed arms, looking to his left and laughing.

Rob has worked as The Nature Conservancy’s Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve Manager for 22 years, increasing habitat for migrating shorebirds and nesting grassland birds at the world-renowned wetland.

More

Support Wetlands

conservation in Kansas

Donate

The long-billed dowitcher is difficult to separate from the short-billed dowitcher - especially at a distance.  So difficult in fact, that most surveys combine the two into a single "dowitcher" listing. Unless I can hear their call and know for sure which species, I do the same. That said, it is rare for a short-billed dowitchers to come through Cheyenne Bottoms whereas the long-billed dowitcher is in my Top 10. Such a large percentage of the entire population of long-billeds use  the Central Flyway each year, we can safely say that the loss of Cheyenne Bottoms would be catastrophic to their survival.

Fun Facts

Mr. Mom: both parents incubate the eggs but the male cares for the young after hatching.

You can call him Cyrano: the long-billed dowitcher's bill is twice as long as it's head.

Oldest known long-billed dowitcher was recorded in Kansas: it was at least 8 years, 4 months old.

(Limnodromus scolopaceus) The long-billed dowitcher's bill is twice as long as its head.
Long-billed dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus) The long-billed dowitcher's bill is twice as long as its head. © Robert Penner/TNC

Habitat & Range

These shorebirds need soft, wet ground. Shallow water ( 2-3 inches deep) and soil easy to dig in is needed for feeding. Wet marshes, grasslands with rain pools and wetland shorelines are ideal. Long-billed dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus) also nest in soft grass near water and don't mind dampness. They use the Pacific, Central and Atlantic flyways for migration but avoid most of the Midwest. In fact, they are unlikely to appear in eastern Kansas - but huge numbers come through Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira in the central part of the state.

Conservation Status

Least concern. Long-billed dowitchers saw populations declines in the late 1800s to early 1900s due to over-hunting but they have rebounded to approximately 500,000 across North America.

Cheyenne Bottoms Area Status

Common  from mid-March to mid-May. Uncommon on their return flights, July-October.

 

BACK to the Shorebird of the Month gallery.

Robert Penner stands with crossed arms, looking to his left and laughing.

Rob has worked as The Nature Conservancy’s Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve Manager for 22 years, increasing habitat for migrating shorebirds and nesting grassland birds at the world-renowned wetland.

More About Robert Penner, PhD