Friday, October 21, 2011

Long-billed Dowitcher, Limnodromus scolopaceus

Photo: Dr. Bernard Master

Thanks to Bernie Master for sharing his amazing shot of a Long-billed Dowitcher, captured on October 9 at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. Bernie's Canon is rigged with an 800 mm lens, which is a cannon in its own right.

Dowitchers are sandpipers that typically forage in deep water, often up to their belly. Like feathered sewing machines, feeding dowitchers rapidly plumb the mucky substrate with extra-long bills in pursuit of macroinvertebrate animal life. The tip of a dowitcher bill is rigged with nerves that permit tactile sensitivity; when food is encountered deep in the mud, the bird detects it via the sensory capabilities of the bill.

Then, as we can see in this photo, the dowitcher is capable of flexing open its upper mandible and firmly clamping down on the food morsel to be. Obviously, dowitchers are not above grabbing non-traditional prey if the opportunity presents itself. This LBD was making a failed but laudable attempt to snare a much faster animal that it usually snags, a dragonfly.

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