And ID guide to the Green/Wood/Common Sandpiper Group

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12 years 2 months ago #267 by Doug
Doug created the topic: And ID guide to the Green/Wood/Common Sandpiper Group
IF you take the full group of species, this does get a little bit more difficult once you introduce the other two species in the family, Spotted and Solitary Sandpiper. Here is a general guide to sperating the species in this family.

Spotted and Common Sandpipers[/b]
These two species are easy to seperate from Wood, Green and Solitary Sandpipers by the obvious white sholder "peak" commonly seen in Common Sandpiper, although seperating Spotted and Common Sandpipers form each other can be a little more tricky.

Firstly in breeding plumage, Spotted Sandpipers heavily spotted underbelly and bright orange on the bill, makes it so easy to ID as it almost resembles the spotting of Spotted Ground Thrush.
When the birds are in non-breeding plumage, it gets a little bit more difficult.

The main pointers to look out for are as follows:
In flight, they look pretty similar, but the white "wing-bar" thins towards the inner wing on spotted sandpiper giving it a shorter, narrower wingbar than in Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper courtesy the University Of Puget Sound

Spotted Sandpiper (Top), Common Sandpiper (Bottom) courtesy the University Of Puget Sound

The second thing to look at is the tail projection. Common Sandpiper's tail sticks out very noticable beyond the tip of the folded wings. Spotted Sandpipers tail only protrudes a little and often looks almost flush with the folded wings. In general about half the tail on Common Sandpiper projects, where as on Spotted, at best one third of the tail projects beyond the wing tips.

Also Spotted Sandpiper is generally always smaller than Common Sandpiper.

The bill on Spotted Sandpiper alomst always has a paler base to it where as Common Sandpipers bill is basically always uniform black although it is a lighter shade towards the base.

When it comes to leg colour, Spotted Sandpiper has yellowish legs where as Common Sandpiper's legs are greenish-grey although juvenile Common Sandpiper can show leg colour similar to Spotted Sandpiper.

The supercilium on Spotted Sandpiper tends to be more pronounced and extends further behind the eye, but this is not always a good feature.

Green, Wood and Sollitary Sandpipers

This group, although outwardly tricky to begin with, has some very simple features to make it realtively easy.

Firstly in flight there are a few obvious differences.

The underwing of Green and Solitary Sandpipers is dark, Wood sandpiper has a lighter underwing.

Wood Sandpiper courtesy of the University of Puget Sound

Green Sandpiper courtesy of the University of Puget Sound

Solitary Sandpiper courtesy of the University of Puget Sound

The second useful feature is wing projection.

Wood Sandpiper has no wing projection and the folded wingtips end flush with the tail.

Green Sandpiper has a slight wing projection, possibly one primary feather.

Solitary Sandpiper has a very long-winged look to it and has a very noticable wing projection.

Another good feature to use is the rump/tail.

Wood sandpiper has a whitish rump with uneven brownish barring on the tail.

Green Sandpiper has a whitish rump with two broad dark bars on the tail and a third partial bar that is split by the white on the rump.

Solitar Sandpiper has a completel all dark tail with onl a little white on the sides of the tail.

Also in flight, Wodd and Green Sandpipers have a virtually plain undertail, whereas Solitary Sandpiper has very noticable barring on the undertail.

When it comes to feather markings etc there are a few differences.

Solitary Sandpiper tends to look very dark compared to the other two species and has a much greater contrast between the dark upperparts and the whte underparts.

Green Sandpiper has darker upperparts than Wood Sandpiper which much finer spotting than wood sandpiper. Also the supercilium tends to be restricted to solely in front of the eye where as wood sandpipers supercilium tends to continue behind the eye. Also the darker breast of Green sandpiper tends to form a "line" right across the bird between the upper and lower parts where as on wood sandpiper, the breast is not as dark as its upper parts and does not create this effect.

Also Solitary and green Sandpipers tend to have a much more pronounced eyering.

As for behaviour, Wood Sandpiper tends to favour more open habitats where you would find other waders.
reen and Solitary Sandpipers tend to prefer quite "backwaters" and ditches etc where you would not normally find other waders.

Check out the link below with some pics of the various birds to get yourself used to them.

Shorebirds, An Identification Guide by Peter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater. HoughtonMifflin publishing ©1986

Thanks to the University of Puget Sound for permission to link to their pictures for these ID guides.

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