Semipalmated Sandpiper

Hey guys, welcome back. Today we have the first of two semipalmated shorebirds; the semipalmated sandpiper. Before I get into how confusing these guys can be, just what the heck does “semipalmated” mean? Well, essentially it means partially webbed. So rather than completely unwebbed feet like a songbird might have, or completely webbed feet like a duck, the semipalmated sandpiper has webs that are only part of the way down the length of their toes.

Two semipalmated sandpipers. Mentor Marsh, Mentor, OH

The semipalmated sandpiper is a plentiful little shorebird of the eastern US. Showing up in typically large numbers during migration, they look very similar to the least sandpiper featured a couple weeks ago. Especially during fall migration, the semipalmated, least, and western sandpipers can (and often do) look very much the same. There are some subtle ways to tell them apart. First look at range. If you’re in the west, you can eliminate this guy from your list of probable birds. Next is the bill and legs. The least sandpiper has green legs, the semipalmated has dark, almost black legs. But keep in mind, distance and light can make this distinction difficult. The bill of the semipalmated is typically a bit heavier looking while the least is thinner and every so slightly down turned. The best way to tell them apart, is to just see them as often as you can. The more you observe them, the more you pick up on subtle differences. This goes for all birds really. Next up, we have another semipalmated bird, this time it’s a plover. See you then!

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