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Species Guide
A photo of a Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus)
Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus scolopaceus

The long-billed dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus, is a medium-sized shorebird of the sandpiper family, Scolopacidae. It is distinguished by its elongated bill, approximately twice the length of its head, and its robust body. During flight, one can observe its large white upper rump, a feature that is otherwise concealed.

Identification Tips

Adults in breeding plumage exhibit a rufous head and underparts, with a dark mottled back. Their bill is straight and black, transitioning to yellowish olive-green near the base. Legs are similarly colored. The tail is barred with black and white, the black bars being notably wider. In non-breeding plumage, they become drab grey with a paler belly, making them harder to distinguish from their close relative, the short-billed dowitcher.


The long-billed dowitcher prefers wet, grassy, or sedge freshwater meadows for breeding. Outside the breeding season, it can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including mudflats, flooded fields, and shallow lakes and marshes.


Breeding occurs from western and northern Alaska to eastern Siberia. In winter, they migrate as far south as Mexico, with some populations wintering along the Pacific coast from southwestern British Columbia to Baja California and others along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Florida.


This species is known for its "sewing machine" feeding motion, often submerging its head underwater to locate prey by touch. It is also more vocal than its short-billed counterpart, frequently emitting a sharp "keek" or "tu" call.

Song & Calls

The long-billed dowitcher's primary call is a high, sharp "keek," which can be heard both in flight and on the ground. It also has a less common "tu" call and an alarm call described as an explosive "KEEK."


Males court females with song and aerial displays of agility. Nests are simple depressions in the ground, lined with grass and leaves, typically located in wet areas with tall grasses. They lay four eggs per clutch, with both sexes sharing incubation duties.

Similar Species

The long-billed dowitcher is nearly identical to the short-billed dowitcher, with the best distinguishing feature being their flight call. Ecologically, they differ in habitat preference and breeding location.

Diet and Feeding

Their diet includes insect larvae, crustaceans, mollusks, and occasionally plant matter. They forage both day and night, using tactile receptors on their bill tips to locate prey.

Conservation status

The long-billed dowitcher is currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, indicating that it is not at immediate risk of widespread decline.

Long-billed Dowitcher Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Long-billed Dowitcher Fun Facts

Did you know?
Both sexes of the Long-billed Dowitcher help to incubate however, only males look after the young once they have hatched.

Long-billed Dowitchers on Birda


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