Shorebirds

Wilson's Snipe 2

Wilson's Snipe.

Shorebirds are amazing migrators. Some species travel thousands of miles between Arctic nesting grounds and wintering grounds in Central and South America. Migration routes are largely determined by food availability. More than 30 shorebird species use interior western wetlands including those found in in northwestern Montana. Over 20 different species have been documented nesting on our wetlands.

Migratory shorebirds require wetland habitats both for critical rest and feeding spots during migration as well as for nesting areas. Unfortunately, wetland habitats continue to be altered/destroyed which has led to the decline of many of our shorebirds. In the lower 48 states, more that 50% of original wetland habitat suitable for shorebirds has been destroyed or degraded.

Shorebirds mainly feed on insects and other invertebrates that they locate by either sight or taste. Because almost all shorebirds nest on the ground, most have earth-tone feathers which help camouflage adults as they incubate their eggs. Shorebirds lay at most four eggs so they produce relatively few offspring each season. Predation on eggs and chicks and harsh weather can greatly reduce productivity in some years. Other issues impacting shorebirds include human disturbances such as reducing nesting habitat during critical periods (haying too early), loose pets that prey on eggs or young birds and off road vehicles.

Find out more about shorebirds and how you can help protect their habitat:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Shorebirds – Waders of Shores, Wetlands and Grasslands Fact Sheet 

Montana Field Guide – Birds 

Intermountain West Regional Shorebird Plan 

The U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan 

Natural Resources Conservation Service Shorebirds Leaflet