Sandpipers and other shorebirds of Columbia County, Oregon

Known as “shorebirds” due to how they congregate at the edges of rivers and oceans, this group includes sandpipers, plovers, snipe, stilts, and several others. In Columbia County most species are seen exclusively along the Columbia River, especially on Sauvie Island and in the Scappoose Bottoms.

Western Sandpiper – Scalloped brown in summer, drab gray in winter. Seasonal, like most sandpipers comes to Columbian shores between July and August. (photo © Ken Chamberlain)
Baird’s Sandpiper – Similar to the Western Sandpiper but larger with more prominent scallops on back and brown around the throat. Uncommon here. (photo © Patricia Teague)
Semipalmated Sandpiper – Grayish-brown above with dark legs. Smaller head and shorter, straighter bill than Western Sandpiper. Rare and usually travels with other species. (photo © cgates326)
Sanderling sandpiper oregon columbia county
Sanderling – Mottled rusty-brown in summer, including on chest, turning gray (with clear chest) in fall. Runs into surf searching for arthropods active in the sand. (photo © Patricia Teague)
Least Sandpiper columbia county oregon
Least Sandpiper – The smallest sandpiper, with a small bill and yellow legs. Common here, feeding out on open mud in drier areas than nearby sandpipers. (photo © Phil Kahler)
Pectoral sandpiper columbia county oregon
Pectoral Sandpiper – Yellow legs, but larger than Least Sandpiper and with unique intricate dark streaking on chest. Often seen in the grassy regions of mudflats. (photo © cgates326)
Dunlin – Gray-brown with white belly in winter becomes rust-brown with black belly in spring. Bill is very long. Prefers watery mudflats, congregating in large groups. (photo © Phil Kahler)
Stilt Sandpiper – Like Dunlin has a long and slightly droopy bill, but with much longer and lighter-colored legs. Prefers the shallow water of marshes. (photo © rsnyder 11)
Spotted Sandpiper – Black belly spots during breeding season and a unique bill distinguish it from other sandpipers. Bobs its tail wherever it goes. Breeds in forested waters. (photo © Patricia)
Solitary Sandpiper – Unlike Spotted Sandpiper it has white speckles on its brown back. Usually seen alone or in pairs in forested marshes and meadows. (photo © Ken Chamberlain)
Lesser Yellowlegs – Larger and with a straighter bill than Stilt Sandpiper, less obvious eyering and brighter legs than its close relative the Solitary Sandpiper. (photo © Patricia Teague)
Greater Yellowlegs – Somewhat larger with thicker bill than Lesser Yellowlegs, with darker flank and neck. Both yellowlegs found in wet pasture as well as mudflats. (photo © cgates326)
Wilson’s Phalarope – Often swims rather than wading, turning tight circles in the water to create a whirlpool effect that brings food up from below. (photo © Phil Kahler)
Red-necked Phalarope – In breeding colors has darker breast than Wilson’s Phalarope, in much lighter non-breeding color has obvious dark earpatch. (photo © cgates326)
American Avocet – Very long legs and an long upturned bill. Head rusty in breeding season and white otherwise, never black. Legs allow it to wade in water of varying depth. (photo © Jon David Nelson)
Black-necked Stilt – Shorter than American Avocet with a shorter straighter bill. Black on back of head and neck. A rarely seen Sensitive Species here. (photo © Jon David Nelson)
Marbled Godwit– These large marbled brown birds have a long upturned bill like the avocet, but bill is much thicker and bicolored. Probes for crustaceans while tide is out. (photo © Phil Kahler)
Whimbrel – Has dark stripes on the head and a strongly downturned bill. Similar to other curlews, but Long-billed Curlew has an even longer bill and lacks the dark stripes. (photo © Steve Dimock)
Short-billed Dowitcher – Colorful bird with a long bill which is neither upturned nor downturned. Forages with a flat back, plunging its long beak over and over into the mud. (photo © Mike Patterson)
Long-billed Dowitcher – The “humped” back while foraging is the best way to distinguish from Short-billed Dowitcher. Can be found in any kind of shallow water. (photo © jayras)
Wilson’s Snipe – Shorter legs than dowitchers and unique streaks on back. Usually found hiding in vegetation in wetlands rather than on open shores. (photo © Jeff Harding)
Black-necked Plover – Black neck in breeding season. Distinguished from sandpipers by stubby bill, and from golden plovers by lighter cap and lack of gold-tipped feathers. (photo © Patricia Teague)
semipalmated plover oregon columbia county
Semipalmated Plover – This tiny plover has a single collar on neck, rather than Killdeer’s double collar. Like the Black-necked Plover, it is most often seen on mudflats. (photo © bhallberg)
Killdeer oregon columbia county
Killdeer – Unique double black bands on chest. The only local shorebird that lives and nests in dry inland environments rather than utilizing wetlands and shores. (photo © Edith Maracle)

Other shorebirds which have been spotted passing through Columbia County but are very rarely seen include Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Ruff, Red Knot, Curlew Sandpiper, Red Phalarope, Long-billed Curlew, Black Turnstone, American Golden Plover, and Pacific Golden Plover.

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