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Probing with Sandpipers

The right tool for the job!

The variety of bill sizes and shapes among the sandpipers is astounding! Many sandpipers have sensitive nerve receptors in their bill tips, so they can find unseen prey through touch, odor, and pressure changes. Those sandpipers with long, straight bills - like this Long-billed Dowitcher - are often described as "stitching." As the bird probes for food, its beak moves rapidly up and down, like the needle on a sewing machine.

The Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network is working to protect shorebirds and their habitats.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Probing with Sandpipers

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote!
[Sound of waves and Sanderlings]
Sandpipers – like these Sanderlings at the beach – are hunched over, probing industriously, as if drilling for oil. But sandpiper bills are far more than drills. Many sandpipers have sensitive nerve receptors in their bill tips, so they can find unseen prey through touch, odor, and pressure changes. And so, they feed even at night.
[Sound of waves and Sanderlings]
The variety of bill sizes and shapes among the sandpipers is astounding! The Long-billed Curlew sports a slender, down-curved bill that may reach nine inches long. With such a tool, the curlew can probe deeply in the mud for marine worms, or snatch a grasshopper from deep in the grass. [Long-billed Curlew song]
At the other extreme of bill length, the turnstone lives up to its name. Using its short, stout bill as a crowbar, a turnstone turns aside rocks and mats of dried seaweed, in search of small crustaceans. [Black Turnstone?]
Those sandpipers with long, straight bills – such as dowitchers – are often described as “stitching.” As the bird probes for food, its beak moves rapidly up and down, like the needle on a sewing machine. [Short-billed Dowitcher]
April brings many thousands of sandpipers to Delaware Bay on the Atlantic Coast and Grays Harbor and San Pablo Bay on the Pacific. These and other such wildlife refuges are crucial to the migration of these fascinating birds. [Sound of waves and Sanderlings]
Today’s show brought to you by the Lufkin Family Foundation.
###

Shorebird calls provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Sanderlings and Long-billed Curlew recorded by R.S. Little. Black Turnstone recorded by G.M. Bell. Short-billed Dowitcher call recorded by C.A. Sutherland.
BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer:  John Kessler
Executive Producer:  Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org         April 2013       Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# SotB-sandpiper-01-2011-04-19 / was 041106pipersKPLU

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