Dowitcher identification and ageing: A photographic review

Published on 01 March 1998 in Main articles

All three species of dowitcher Limnodromus are described and illustrated in all their substantive plumages, including the three races of Short-billed L. griseus and the poorly known Asian Dowitcher L. semipalmatus. The various identification criteria for separating the two Nearctic species are reviewed, and primary projection beyond the tail is highlighted as a useful feature in all except juvenile plumages, particularly to aid identification in the ‘difficult’ non-breeding plumage.There are three species of dowitcher Limnodromus: Short-billed L. griseus, Long-billed L. scobpaceus and Asian Dowitcher L. semipalmatus. Short-billed and Long-billed both breed in the Nearctic, and Long-billed also breeds in the eastern Palearctic. Both species occur as vagrants in the western Palearctic, though Long-billed is far commoner than Short-billed, of which there are very few records. The Asian Dowitcher is an eastern Palearctic breeder that has not been recorded in the western Palearctic, though it may be in the future. The purpose of this paper is to review the field identification and ageing criteria for all three species, illustrating with photographs each distinctivesubspecies and age-class plumage. There have been several recent detailed discussions of the identification and separation of Short-billed and Long-billed Dowitchers (Wilds & Newlon 1983; Wilds 1990; Jaramillo et al. 1991; Jaramillo & Henshaw 1995), which between them cover the identification features of these two species, and it is not intended to repeat the detailed content of those papers. There is, however, no similar review that compares all three species, including Asian Dowitcher. Breeding and migration Short-billed Dowitcher There

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