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Sandpiper Bills

Many sandpipers have sensitive nerve receptors in their bill tips, so they can find unseen prey through touch, odor, and pressure changes - and so, feed even at night. This Long-billed Curlew (in back) sports a slender, down-curved bill that may reach nine inches long. The Bar-tailed Godwit (in front) probes deeply, sometimes even putting its head under water. Learn more about the Long-billed Curlew and the Bar-tailed Godwit. Take a field trip with your local Audubon, and see what you can find.

 

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

Sandpiper Bills

Written by Bob Sundstrom
 
This is BirdNote!
[Sound of waves and Sanderlings]
We’ve all seen sandpipers at the beach, 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, feed even at night.
[Sound of waves and Sanderlings]
The variety of bill sizes and shapes among the sandpipers is astounding! The curlews sport a slender, down-curved bill that may reach nine inches long. With such a tool, curlews 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 turnstones live up to their name, using a short, stout bill as a crowbar, levering aside small rocks and mats of dried seaweed in search of small crustaceans.
Those sandpipers with long, straight bills – such as dowitchers – are often described as “stitching,” as they probe rapidly up and down, like the needle on a sewing machine.
April brings many thousands of sandpipers to the coast. You’ll enjoy watching them at work.  [Sound of waves and Sanderlings]
Take a field trip with your local Audubon and study a sandpiper’s bill. You’ll find a link to your local chapter at BirdNote.org. I’m Frank Corrado.
###

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.
Producer:  John Kessler
Executive Producer:  Chris Peterson
© 2009 Tune In to Nature.org 

ID# 041106pipersKPLU   bill-01-2009-04-09-

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