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Shyanni

Please confirm ID for me

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I think this is a Semi-palmated Sandpiper, which would be a lifer for me. I'm not familiar with the species. Please explain what the identifying field markings are, compared to a Least or a Western, which both were also feeding in this area.

 

SemiPalmSandpiper.jpg

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I think this is a Western Sandpiper, actually. The distinct contrast between the very gray coverts and those beautiful rufous scapulars really doesn't fit Semipalmated. They should be more uniform above and a bit darker on the chest. Least Sandpiper would be darker above, often with quite a bit of rufous, and duskier on the breast as well. A Least would also have yellow or greenish legs, but that's a tricky thing to judge sometimes, especially when they're feeding in mud. 

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Okay, thanks, guys. There were a lot of Westerns in the group, but this one just seemed duller and greyer, the rufous much softer than the others, so I was hoping. Maybe migration time will bring me a Semipalmated. And a Surfbird - another one the manual says is here that I've never seen.

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Surfbirds breed in alpine tundra in Alaska and Canada -- they come down to Vancouver, Washington, etc. in late July and early August. Don't look for them where you find Western Sandpipers, though -- they prefer rocky coastlines.

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Would this be a juvenile Western due to the uniform plumage (not molting) and also the lack of specks going down the flanks and belly?

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Yes, it's a juvenile. I don't know how important the lack of flank markings is in aging these guys, but the lack of molt (and the nice, crisp plumage) says juvenile. Generally speaking, molt is often more useful for aging birds than the color and pattern.

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