Sandpipers, Snipe and Woodock (Scolopacidae)

Greater Yellowlegs

Tringa melanoleuca

The most common call is a series of 3 or 4 slightly descending 'tew' calls usually made in flight but also on the ground. This recording starts with 'tew tew tew tew' then some other calls and finishes with two series of 'tew' calls. (One bird, Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: In migration found on mud flats, exposed river beds, shallow edges of ponds and lakes. Breeds in subarctic bogs; winters in coastal marshes.


Photo of western subspecies of willet

Tringa semipalmata

The Willet is named from its distinctive, ringing call, p'dl will willet, which it makes almost exclusively during the breeding season. The call of the western subspecies is usually lower pitched and slower than the call of the eastern subspecies. (Recorded in Garden County, Nebraska and Cheticamp Island, Nova Scotia.)
Habitat: Eastern breeds in or near coastal salt marshes, beaches; Western breeds in prairies, grasslands near shallow wetlands or bodies of water.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Photo of Lesser Yellowlegs

Tringa flavipes

Lesser Yellowlegs vigorously defend their nests and young. When a human enters a nesting area, the birds commonly fly to a tree top and endlessly scold the intruder with alarm calls (here, the opening three 'double note calls' are rapidly repeated versions of the common, characteristic tu call ). On one occasion two birds attempted to land at the same time on a spruce top. The losing bird flew down and sang the short song while the other began to give alarm calls from the top of the tree. Here is the same short song by itself (extracted from the previous recording). The short song is used in various situations, including alerting a mate to predators approaching chicks or a nest. This recording is of two birds interacting, apparently aggressively, during fall migration. (Denali Highway, Alaska and Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: In migration found on mud flats, exposed river beds, shallow edges of ponds and lakes. Breeds in subarctic bogs; winters in coastal marshes.

Upland Sandpiper

Bartramia longicauda

Flight song is a rattle followed by a weird flute-like whistle, slowly rising and then falling . Unquestionably, one of my favorite bird calls. (Washington County, New York.)
Habitat: Open country, meadows, prairies.


Numenius phaeopus

Breeding whimbrels respond to human intruders by making their scolding trill call. This bird was perched on a small spruce in the tundra several hundred meters away when it spotted us and began scolding. As I moved closer it flew towards me, landed on a small spruce less than fifty meters away and scolded me for several minutes while I stood still. At the end it flew to the ground and appeared to forage. (Denali Area, Alaska.)
Habitat: Breeds on tundra and taiga; winters on farm fields, beaches, mudflats.

Long-billed Curlew

Numenius americanus

All of these recordings were made during the breeding season. The trilled call is most often given when a curlew lands near other curlews. It is also given during interactions between birds; when this example was recorded three birds were together on the ground and two of them called. The long call is usually made by flying birds; in this instance a curlew made 15 long calls as it glided low over the ground on set wings, then it stopped calling while it flapped its wings, and then began again to glide and make long calls just before landing and giving the trilled call (Bairds Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, Sprague's Pipit and crickets in background). Long-call flights were seen or heard all six days we were near breeding territories. The curlee call (or curloo) is the most commonly heard Long-billed Curlew call (calls by three birds; some curlee calls are more drawn out and delivered more slowly than these). Both sexes make the call; it is heard on the breeding grounds and from migrating and wintering flocks. It appears to serve as contact call and an anxiety call. The ki-keck alarm call is made mainly in flight and is used, for example, when predators enter a nesting area. The wheet anxiety call is used mainly on the ground. (Valley County, Montana.)
Habitat: Breeds in western open grasslands. In migration and winter found in wetlands, beaches, farm fields.

Marbled Godwit

Limosa fedoa

A couple of marbled godwits on their breeding grounds flew hundreds of meters across a large field apparently to investigate us, circled us once or twice while calling and then flew back to where they came from. They repeated this behavior several times. The birds called versions of ger-whit on the ground and while flying. At another location a godwit flew in circles around us calling rad-i-ca and other calls for several minutes. Occasionally it landed and called an agitated ger-whit repeatedly. It's likely we were near its nesting area; although we were on a road. (Clay County, Minnesota)
Habitat: Breeds in grasslands; spends winters on seacoast.

Wilson's Snipe

Gallinago delicata

Call is a repeated scaip given when startled into flight and under various other circumstances. In the early morning or early evening during the breeding season both sexes do an arial display in which the bird flies up a couple of hundred feet and then dives down. During the dive the rushing air vibrates the two outer tail feathers producing an eerie winnowing or whinnying sound. In the recording you can hear two episodes of winnowing and then at the end a rapid kit kit kit call followed by a wheet wheet wheet call. (Albany County, New York and Vilas County Wisconsin.)
Habitat: Marshes, bogs, wet fields.

American Woodcock

Scolopax minor

The woodcock puts on a spectacular courtship display at dawn and dusk in the spring. The loud and distinctive peent call of courting woodcock is usually the first sign of its presence on the display grounds. The peents are often accompanied by a soft, two-note, tuko call. (You can hear it in the peent recording, but you have to be very close to the birds in the field to hear it, because it is such a soft call.) Here are amplified tukos. The peent calls are given while the male is on the ground between his flight displays. After peenting for a while, the male flies upward in wide circles, while specialized feathers on his wings make a twittering sound. At 2-300 feet the bird starts his descent and begins to make a 'kissing call'. Listen to the flight display. (Albany County, New York.)
Habitat: Moist woods and thickets, brushy swamps; displays in bordering open areas.