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What's Inside a Sandpiper's Bill?

Their special long bills are incredibly sensitive
© Allan Hack View Large

Sandpipers spend most of their days running back and forth at the edge of the surf. They stick their long bills into the mud, looking for little crabs and critters and sea worms just below the surface.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

What's Inside a Sandpiper's Bill?

Written by Dennis Paulson and Adapted by Jason Saul

[shore sounds and sandpipers]

This is BirdNote.

Sandpipers spend most of their days running back and forth at the edge of the surf.

They’ll stick their long bills into the mud, probing and testing, looking for little crabs and critters and sea worms just below the surface.

A bird like a Marbled Godwit can stick its bill five or even six inches into the mud. But their bills are just three to five inches long, so godwits are known for walking around with very dirty faces.

Sandpipers have incredibly sensitive bills. The area near the tip of their bill is covered with little structures called Herbst corpuscles [pron: HERB-st COR-pus-llz]. These are special organs that are sensitive to tiny changes in pressure.

Even with surf pounding all around, the sandpiper can feel the wiggle of a worm’s tail or the contraction of a snail and in an instant, jerk its head back and swallow its meal whole.

Many sandpipers are declining due to sea level rise and conflicts with humans. Help sandpipers this summer by sharing the beach: Keep an eye out for nests on the sand or in the dunes, and keep your dog on a leash.

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.

--

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Producer: John Kessler

Managing Producer: Jason Saul

Editor: Ashley Ahearn

Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone

Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill

Narrator: Michael Stein

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Whimbrel ML 207754 recorded by B Mcguire; Marbled Godwit ML 60819 recorded by W Gunn.

BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

© 2019 BirdNote   June 2019

ID# bill-06-2019-06-06   bill-06

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