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What are Shorebirds?

Shorebirds, affectionately known as mudpeckers, are generally birds of open landscapes and spend most of their time on the ground, except when they are undertaking their spectacular migrations. They possess a wide variety of beaks that are used to find food by probing deep in the mud, flipping pebbles, or cracking open clams. They tend to dislike cold weather and migrate to areas where their food is not covered by layers of ice and snow. Because they are found in open country, shorebirds have developed elaborate systems of songs, aerial displays and dances to attract a mate. Many shorebird species nest near the poles and undertake extraordinary journeys to find the best seasonal food resources. These amazing creatures go by the names of stilts, avocets, oystercatchers, plovers, curlews, godwits, turnstones, sandpipers, dowitchers, snipes and phalaropes.

Focal Species

Matt Filosa/Audubon Photography Awards

American Oystercatcher
(Haematopus palliatus)

Milo Burcham/

Black Oystercatcher
(Haematopus bachmani)

Jason Quinn/Wikimedia Commons

Blackish Oystercatcher
(Haematopus ater)

Antonio Larrea/Centro Bahía Lomas

Magellanic Oystercatcher
(Haematopus leucopodus)

Vivek Khanzode/Audubon Photography Awards

Snowy Plover
(Charadrius nivosus)

Deborah Bifulco/Audubon Photography Awards

Wilson’s Plover
(Charadrius wilsonia beldingi)

Jorge Martin Spinuzza/

Rufous-chested Dotterel
(Charadrius modestus)

Brad Winn/Manomet

(Numenius phaeopus)

Richard Derevan/Audubon Photography Awards

Long-billed Curlew
(Numenius phaeopus)

Milo Burcham/

Hudsonian Godwit
(Limosa haemastica)

Milo Burcham/

Marbled Godwit
(Limosa fedoa)

Milo Burcham/

Black Turnstone
(Arenaria melanocephala)

Lucas DeCicco/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Red Knot
(Calidris canutus roselaari)

Lucas DeCicco/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

(Calidris virgata)

Robert Cook/Audubon Photography Awards

(Calidris alba)

Lucas DeCicco/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

(Calidris alpina pacifica)

Milo Burcham/

Rock Sandpiper
(Calidris ptilocnemis ptilocnemis)

Brad Winn/Manomet

Semipalmated Sandpiper
(Calidris pusilla )

Milo Burcham/

Western Sandpiper
(Calidris mauri)

Milo Burcham/

Short-billed Dowitcher
(Limnodromus griseus caurinus)

Peter Bannon/Audubon Photography Awards

(Tringa semipalmata inornata)

Moving Toward Action

Identify, protect, maintain, restore and enhance breeding habitats for species of highest conservation concern and at sites of high nonbreeding shorebird concentrations.

How Focal Species Use the Flyway

Shorebirds use the Pacific Americas Flyway in a number of ways . Species such as the Black Turnstone, Black Oystercatcher and Surfbird are only found on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. Some of the tropical species, such as Wilson’s and Snowy Plovers, are year-round residents along the coast, while others, such as the Black Turnstone, Magellanic Oystercatcher, and Rufous-chested Dotterel, make only short-distance migrations between their breeding and nonbreeding sites. The champions of the Flyway are the Arctic-nesting species, Surfbird and Whimbrel, for example, that can travel the entire length of the Americas to spend their nonbreeding season.

Not all species are linear in their use of the Flyway. Hudsonian Godwits nesting in Alaska cross flyways to the Atlantic coast during their post-breeding migration only to end up back on the Chilean Pacific coast for the Austral summer. Similarly, Marbled Godwits breeding around James Bay, Canada, traverse the North America continent to spend the nonbreeding period along México’s Pacific coast. The Flyway also supports nonbreeding populations of Long-billed Curlews, Willets and Marbled Godwits that breed in North America’s Great Plains and Intermountain West. Clearly, conservation of shorebirds and their habitats along the Pacific Americas Flyway impacts many countries, states and provinces.

Generalized migration paths of five focal species within the Pacific Americas Flyway project area. Map credit: Liling Lee/National Audubon Society.

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