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World Shorebirds Day!

Today, September 6th 2014 is the first ever World Shorebirds Day. What are shorebirds you may ask. Sure.

“It’s that group of birds which are largely found next to the shore, whether it’s beach shores or inland wetland shores, but they do occur in other habitats as well,” says Rob Clay, director of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. “Some species are grassland dependent, others are forest dependent; there are even a few species that occur in arid habitats. They may be found on the coast or at 4,000-plus meters up in the Andes.” – Excerpt from

There are many different species of shorebirds that can be found on the shores of Trinidad and Tobago. During the months of August to October they are usually recorded here, as this coincides with their fall migration from their breeding grounds in the high Arctic. Some species just stop off for a brief refuelling, while others may spend the entire winter here.

Please take a minute to enjoy some of these absolutely gorgeous long-distance flyers. Most of them are coloured brown to camouflage with the mudflats they spend most of their winter time on.

Do not forget that each image is clickable, and they are all most enjoyable when viewed large!


Southern Lapwing – Quite common throughout T&T, and very often heard in the dead of night. They are vocal birds who will aggressively defend their offspring against anything and anyone.

southern lapwing










Black-necked Stilt – Striking black and white, this noisy bird stands tall on what gives it its name

Black Necked Stilt







Black-bellied Plover – the bird in the foreground still has remnants of its breeding plumage. Every year they moult twice, once in the fall into their alternate or winter plumage (which is brown or grey) and once in the spring when they get back to their breeding grounds (a striking black belly fringed with white).

black bellied plovers






American Golden-plover – Just as the Black-bellied plover, this species also sports a black belly. This bird shows us almost what it looked like to attract a mate in the spring.

american golden plover







Semipalmated Plover – Named for its semipalmations or partial webbing between its toes.

Semipalmated Plover










Wilson’s Plover – Uncommon visitor to our shores, I have only seen this bird twice. Most distinguishable by its thick bulbous bill.

wilson's plover







Collared Plover – Smallest of the plover species commonly found in T&T

Collared Plover










Short-billed Dowitcher – Short and stocky, this bird is a common migrant to T&T’s shores and inland waterways.

short billed dowitcher







Hudsonian Godwit – Just passes through briefly on its way to southern South America.

Hudsonian Godwit






Whimbrel – Easily identified by its large size and long, curved bill.








Ruddy Turnstone – So named for its feeding habit of turning stones over to see what’s underneath them.

ruddy turnstone







Greater Yellowlegs – The larger of the two species of yellowlegs we find here.

greater yellowlegs







Lesser Yellowlegs – Smaller and decidedly more common than its greater counterpart. The two can be reliably differentiated by size and the ratio of bill length to head length.

Lesser Yellowlegs







Red Knot – Uncommon migrant, and very rarely seen. In their breeding plumage they have a vivid red breast. Pictured here is one distinctly stocky Red Knot, with another shorebird in the background, can you guess which species?

red knot







Solitary Sandpiper – As the name suggests, usually found by itself. The first time I saw two Solitary Sandpipers together it challenged my reality.

Solitary Sandpiper







Spotted Sandpiper – The spots are only visible when its in it’s breeding dress. The most reliable means of identifying this common shorebird is by its habit of constantly bobbing its tail. Look out for it next time.

spotted sandpiper







Willet – This medium-large shorebird is easiest identified in flight. Its striking black and white markings on its wings make it unmistakeable.








Sanderling – Moving in small groups, these little peeps chase every single wave at top speed. As soon as the water recedes, tiny invertebrates are picked up before they’ve gotten a chance to disappear in the sand.







Semipalmated Sandpiper – Also named for its semipalmations (remember that?) between its toes, this bird daintily pecks at the mud en masse during migration months. Very common visitor to T&T, sometimes seen at puddles in the roadway.

semipalmated sandpipers







Western Sandpiper – Ok this is where it gets a little difficult. The Western Sandpiper looks very similar to the Semipalmated Sandpiper, however the bill of the former is longer, thinner and droops ever so slightly. Which is evident in their differing feeding pattern, while the Semipalmated Sandpiper daintily pecks at the mud, the Western Sandpiper will deliberately probe.

western sandpiper







White-rumped Sandpiper – Easily identified in flight with its conspicuous white rump, at rest it’s slightly larger than both Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers – also its wings protrude beyond the tip of its tail. The relation of wing-tip to tail-tip is quite visible in this image.

white rumped sandpiper







Least Sandpiper – Tiny, only six inches long, and the only small shorebird to have yellow legs.

Least Sandpiper







Pectoral Sandpiper – In its lifetime this medium sized shorebird may rack up enough miles for a return trip to the moon.

Pectoral Sandpiper







Stilt Sandpiper – Long-legged as its name implies, it is more often found along inland waterways as opposed to the sea shore.

stilt sandpiper





7 thoughts on “World Shorebirds Day!

  1. Like Matt, I’m bookmarking this page because it’s such an excellent reference to supplement the field guide. Thanks for the great info Faraaz!

  2. Jerome Foster says:

    Nice write-up and gallery Faraaz – one Q – I know you’ll find lapwings at teh shore, but you’ll also find them all over the savannahs on the interior. Are they strictly shorebirds or more like the herons who can adapt to most environments?

    1. Thanks Jerome. Lapwings are shorebirds in the sense of their relation to plovers – it’s like the Upland Sandpiper, which is a shorebird but is found mostly inland.

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