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Shorebirds - Not on the Shore

What the heck is that about?

Shorebirds' lives take them to many places other than the shore. Most of the shorebirds we see along our coasts migrate to the Arctic in summer. Here, many nest on the tundra, some along rushing streams, and others on rocky mountainsides. Long-billed Curlews winter on the Florida, Gulf, and Pacific coasts. But this one was seen in a field near Creston, BC, Canada, nearly 500 miles from the coast and 1/2 mile from the nearest body of water, the Kootenay River!

Full Transcript



Shorebirds Far from the Sea

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote.

[Sound of waves along the shore, mixed with calls of Red Knots, Semipalmated Plovers, and Dunlin]

Almost any time of year when you visit the ocean shoreline – Pacific, Atlantic, or the Gulf of Mexico – you're likely to find a batch of sandpipers and plovers. Small-to-medium-sized birds running along the retreating wave edge, probing in the mudflats or flying up suddenly in a tight flock. 

They are such an accustomed presence near the water’s edge that the whole group of them – plovers, sandpipers, and several others – is known officially as “shorebirds.”     

But shorebirds’ lives take them to many places other than the shore. Most migrate to the Arctic in summer, where many nest on the tundra, some along rushing streams and others on rocky mountainsides.

[Ambient including call of Black-bellied Plover] 

The Long-billed Curlew, which winters on the Florida, Gulf, and Pacific coasts, nests in the grasslands and sagebrush of the arid West. About as un-shore-like as it gets. 

[Long-billed Curlew song in background]

And one of the most familiar of shorebirds, the handsome plover called the Killdeer, is a year-round habitué of open farmlands, park lawns, and ploughed fields. 

[Killdeer calling]    

So it's only on a few lucky days that you might see one at the shore.

[Sound of waves along the shore, mixed with calls of Dunlin]

BirdNote is produced by John Kessler, and our executive producer is Dominic Black. Today’s show was written by BirdNote’s lead writer, Bob Sundstrom.


Calls of the birds provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Dunlin, Red Knot, Semipalmated Plover and Black-bellied Plover recorded by W.W.H. Gunn; Long-billed Curlew by R.S. Little; Killdeer by G.A. Keller.

Ambient waves J. Kessler Productions.

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

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Dominic Black

© 2014 Tune In to     October 2014    Narrator: Mary McCann

ID# shorebird-03-2010-10-15-MM   shorebird-03b

comment 1 Show

Upland sandpipers are rare in California where other sandpipers abound. They nest in grassy fields in Nebraska and other central states where no other sandpipers are commonly found. Similar situations can be found among Sea Gulls, some nesting far from the sea and hanging out in fresh water lakes and the islands within them.


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