Sandpipers are a number of species in the large family of shore birds known scientifically as Scolopacidae. Since different species of sandpipers can have different bill lengths, they don’t tend to compete for the same food. So they can coexist in the same areas. Nerve receptors in the tips of their bills let many sandpipers find their prey through touch, odor, and pressure changes and gives them the ability to hunt at night. You can frequently find them at the water’s edge, pecking for a meal.
The following are some species of sandpipers that are common to Jekyll Island.
A Willet is a large brownish grey sandpiper with long thin legs that often feeds along the shoreline and in the mudflats around Jekyll Island. The bird uses its long bill to peck into the soil, eating small crustaceans, mollusks, and perhaps a small fish. In flight, it has a striking pattern of white and dark stripes. When you get too close to a group of them, they will take flight, only to settle a ways down the shore. They have a distinctive call that seems to ask why you have bothered them, with their pee – pee – pee cries. You can find Willets alone or in groups of up to twenty or even more. Jekyll Sandpiper renters need only take a short stroll to our nearby beach. We see them there so often that I’ve taken to calling it Sandpiper Beach.
Stilt, Least, and Lesser Yellowleg
The Stilt Sandpiper is smaller, with a slightly curved bill, and it lacks striping on its wings. A Least Sandpiper is smaller still, with yellow legs. Lesser Yellowleg Sandpipers are close to the size of a Stilt Sandpiper, with yellow legs. These sandpipers tend to prefer salt marshes, ponds, and rivers. So look for them on the west shore of the island or perhaps in the Clam Creek area.
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