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Long-billed Dowitcher

Limnodromus scolopaceus

Length: 11.5 inches Wingspan: 18 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Long bill, short neck, stocky body.  Brownish breeding plumage, gray in winter.

Long-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus scolopaceusVery similar to its close relative, the Short-billed Dowitcher, with only a slightly longer bill.  Major differences lie in their different voices and their habitat preference, as the Long-billed Dowitcher prefers freshwater, while the Short-billed Dowitcher is more often found in saltwater.  The photo at the right shows a breeding plumage bird.  Photos below also show a winter-plumaged bird.

In South Dakota Long-billed Dowitchers are migrants, seen in both the fall and spring seasons. However, given how quickly many birds leave their northern Arctic breeding grounds, Long-billed Dowitchers may be seen almost any month in South Dakota, from April through October.


Mudflats, flooded fields and pastures, marshes, sloughs, and shallow ponds.


Variety of items depending on location and season.  Will feed on insects and insect larvae, mollusks, crustaceans, and seeds of aquatic and terrestrial plants.


Forages deliberately in shallow water, probing in the bottom mud with its bill.


Non-breeder in South Dakota, as their breeding grounds are in far northwestern Canada and the north slope of Alaska. The nest of a Long-billed Dowitcher is built on the tundra, usually next to a pond, and placed on or next to a small clump of tundra grasses. The nest is a cup-shaped depression, lined with grasses and other tundra vegetation. The female lays 3 or 4 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. The young hatch after about 21 days. Once the young hatch, they leave the nest almost immediately, and must feed themselves. The male will stay near the young and attempt to protect them from danger.


Vocalizations of Long-billed Dowitchers are primarily heard when they birds are threatened or flush upon approach. They may be short, individual peep notes, or a chattering series of similar notes. A complex chattering call is also given on the breeding grounds by the males.


Summers in extreme northern Alaska and northwestern Canada.  Winters along U.S. coasts, Mexico, and Central America. In South Dakota, they are common migrants, found in both the spring and fall migration. Given how quickly some birds return from their northern breeding grounds, birds can be seen at almost any time from April through October in South Dakota, although the month of June appears to be the one time period where most birds are still on their breeding grounds.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Long-billed Dowitcher sightings 

Similar Species:

Long-billed Dowitchers have one very close relative that can also be found in South Dakota, and there are other shorebirds that could potentially be confused with them. Here are the species most likely to be confused with a Long-billed Dowitcher:

Short-billed Dowitcher - Limnodromus griseus Wilson's Snipe 16 - Gallinago delicata Wilson's Snipe 20 - Gallinago delicata
Short-billed Dowitcher Wilson's Snipe Wilson's Snipe

Conservation Status:

Long-billed Dowitchers have a very broad geographic range, overall populations appear to be relatively stable, and they are common in parts of their range. The IUCN considers the Long-billed Dowitcher to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

May 14th, 2010 -- Lake Whitewood -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Long-billed Dowitcher photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Long-billed Dowitcher - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant in suitable habitat throughout the state.

Additional Long-billed Dowitcher Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos

Long-billed Dowitcher 1 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 2 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 3 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 4 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 5 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 6 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 7 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 8 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 9 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 10 - Limnodromus scolopaceusHudsonian Godwit and Long-billed Dowitchers 1Long-billed Dowitcher 11 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 12 - Limnodromus scolopaceusLong-billed Dowitcher 13 - Limnodromus scolopaceus