Posted on: November 26th, 2012

The Willet -Tringa semipalmata (formerly listed as Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)



The Willet is a large shorebird in the sandpiper family. There are two subspecies with very different ranges. The Eastern Willet breeds in coastal salt marshes from Nova Scotia to Mexico and theCaribbean. It winters on the Atlantic coast of South America. The Western Willet breeds in freshwater prairie marshes in western North America. It winters on both coasts, from the mid-Atlantic states south to at least Brazil on the Atlantic, and from Oregon south to Peru on the Pacific.


Willets nest on the ground, usually in well-hidden locations in short grass, often in colonies. These birds forage on mudflats or in shallow water, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects, crustaceans and marine worms, but also eat some plant material.


The Willet’s population declined sharply due to hunting in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Their population has since increased, but they are still considered at risk, especially in light of continued habitat loss.


Identification Tips:
Length: 13.5 inches – Large, plump-looking, long-legged shorebird – Long, thick, straight bill – Bill black or blue-gray with darker tip – Blue-gray legs – Bold black and white wing pattern – Whitish tail with dusky terminal band:


Similar species: :


Yellowlegs are smaller and slimmer, with much more slender bills and yellow legs, and lack the striking black-and-white wing pattern. Godwits have much longer, thinner, upturned bills with a pink base and dark tip.

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