2011 Spring Class Notes: Class #1

4-26-11  Spring Class #1  Advanced Birding

Consider getting The Shorebird Guide by Obrien, Crosley, and Karlson.

Next week we will cover molt, the foundation of the class.

51st supplement to the AOU list – 4 new orders were added:

Tropic Birds only, moved to their own order.  Can look this all up on David Sibley’s website

Suliformes:  4 families, Frigates, boobies and gannets and anhingas and cormorants into suliformes and out of pelicaniformes.

Accipitorformes:  Vultures, Osprey, and All of the hawks are the 3 families.

Falconoformes:  remain in their own family.  3 sub families, forrest falcons, caracaras, and falcons.

Herons, bitterns, ibis, spoonbills moved into pellicanoformes with pelicans.

So there are 11 new families in 4 new orders.

Warbers:  6 warblers moved from vermovora to oriophillipses.  A brand new sub-family of warblers.  New genus. Leaves only 3 vermivores.

Pirangas moved into Cardinaline, so the tanagers of N America moved to this new order.  So tanagers more closely related to BH grosbeak

Winter wren split into Winter wren and Pacific Wren

Whip-poor will split into eastern and western.

Black scoter remains Black Scoter and is now split form the one in Europe which is now Common Scoter

Greater Shearwater changed to Great Shearwater.

GISS:   General Impression Size and Shape

Why look at this GISS approach to bird ID rather than just fieldmarks?  Simpler and more enjoyable.

Starting the class with shorebirds in order to be ready for the first fieldtrip to the coast primarily to study and see the spring shorebird migration.

Shorebirds:   87 species worldwide, 42 species annually in WA, 20 accidentals.

Shorebird year:  Start in the first of the calendar year.  Refer to the boxes of strategies of molt in the Howell book.  See the box like table.

In early calander year molt into alternate plumage.  Migrate in about March-April, some in alt plumage prior to leaving non-breeding grounds, and most of the birds we see in migration in incomplete alternate plumage are first or maybe second year birds.  Go to breeding grounds.  Our spring migration ends June 10th in WA.  June 10-20 you cannot tell of birds are moving N or S.  After June 20 most birds are moving south.  Usually females show up here first on the southward migration along with unsuccessful breeders, usually in worn plumage.  Then the males show up, with most of the adults through WA by mid to late August.  Juveniles start showing in late July-early August and are in Juvenile plumage.  Juvenile plumage is fresh and pristine.  Brand new 6 week old feathers.  Can still see juveniles until early November.  Spring migration is urgent, move through quickly.  Fall migration is more protracted.

Juveniles start in about Late Oct-Nov their B1 plumage.

GISS cont:

  1. Relative size is the most important aspect of GISS.  Small like a peep, medium like a dowicher, large like a Whimbrel.  The good thing about shorebirds is you can compare sizes to a known bird.

In a new flock of birds, first look for different sizes of birds.  Then lock onto one bird to identify for a size comparison.  If no other birds, try to compare the bird to an artifact for general size.

  1. Structure is the second most important thing in GISS, like the length of the legs, width and size of the head and bill, is the bird slim, fat, dumpy, attenuated, long neck or short neck, bill is very important, is it long like a curlew or short like a plover, where in between.  Bill color and leg color and bill shape are the most key field marks.
  2. Next is behavior.  How does it feed, visual hunter like a plover or probe like a sandpiper.  Does it pick, probe, or stitch.  Wild movement like a greater YL, or more slow and methodical like a lesser YL.  Flocking behavior helps.  Tight flock or spread out.  Size of the flock can help.  Loud or soft call.  Is it a sentinel or a prober.
  3. Flight behavior, fluttery near the water is Spotted SP, towering flight is Solitary sandpiper.

Least SP takes off at a more acute angle than a Western SP.

  1. General impression of Color patterns – dun colored, brown or black on the least, the gray or brown above and white belly allows them to blend in from above and minimize the shadow effect.  Called counter shading
  2. Finally is voice:  it can help clinch the ID.
  3. Details of the plumage is the last thing, and we’ll cover this in the third class.  It is often needed to confirm the ID.

Probability is very important.  Look for what is available.

Look at the silhouettes in the Howell book.

Black-bellied plover:  30 mm bill length, 200K in NA 240gm, fat and plump, primaries slightly past the tail, mud flats, beaches and plowed fields.

Am. Golden Plover: most come thru the central states in spring, so very rare in spring, more in fall.  150K in NA.  145gm.  Long wing projection, > ½ inch.  Long wings =Long migration.  Plowed fields, sparse vegetation, golf courses, salt marshes, almost always coastal in WA in spring.  23 mm bill

Pacific Golden Plover: 16K in AK, world wide 125K.  In WA we can see the birds from AK in the fall, mostly juveniles.  130gm.  Legs longer, wings shorter, so shorter wing projection, look bigger chested and “dumpier”   23 mm bill

Snowy Plover:  14 mm bill, all dark bill, dark legs, 16K – 21 K in NA.  In WA very few, maybe 65 individuals in WA last year.  Small, chunky, very light colored, live on the upper dry sand,

Semipalmated Plover: In WA almost every small plover is Semi-palmated. 150K, upland, beaches, fields, mudflats. Loose flocks.

Piping and Wilson’s  plovers, not here.

Killdeer:  common, easy.

Mountain Plover:  one seen in WA this year.  9K in the world

Greater Yellowlegs: 56 mm bill (avg) 100K but in WA we see far more greater YL, seen both fall and spring.  160 gm. Big belly, Adam’s apple, upturned bill, active feeder, can sythe but also run and grab food.  Flooded fields, marshes, tidal creeks, slightly shorter tail.

Lesser Yellowlegs: 36 mm bill.  500K, rare in W WA in spring, in fall in small groups.  80 gm.  More methodical, move through kicking at the surface, marshes, more protected areas, mud flats.  Slightly longer wing projection, goes past the tail a little more.

Solitary sandpiper: 30 mm bill, 25 K in US, 50 gm, compact, short wings, short legs and neck, move slowly on the edge of the water, ponds, creeks, fresh water marshes, spotted above, bob their head (not their tail).  Fly straight up, called towering.  Tend to hold their bill horizontally.

Willet:  62 mm bill, we have western willet, only in Tokeland and WIllipa bay, as with other larger sandpipers it often takes longer to mature, and some oversummer in their first year.  210 gm

Wandering Tattler:  33 mm slightly drooping pointed bill, attenuated, 110 gm, same wt as a dowicher.  Found on rocks, only seen in migration.  Plain wing, plain tail. 10K in world.  Horozontal stance, teeters head only, walks quickly, loose flocks.  Picks and probes.  The largest rock sandpiper.   Pointed bill.  Usually don’t flock with other rock birds.  When disturbed fly by themselves.  Tend not to fly by in a flock.  Very loud call.

Spotted Sandpiper:  40 gm, 150K, short legs an bill, shallow fluttery flight, bob their tail, horizontal stance with bobbing, in the south they are polyandrous, can lay up to four broods, in the south the female with lay the eggs, abandon them and leave them to the male.

Whimbrel:  Long bill, decurved, 87 mm bill, 390 gm, striped head, walk slowly, mud flats, grassy areas.

Long-billed Curlew:  480 gm, 160 mm bill, walk steadily picking and probing.

Hudsonian Godwits:  300 gm most in middle of the country, rare in fall, not in spring, 82 mm bill, 50K,

Marbled Godwits: increasing in WA, 1500-2000 in outer coast of WA, most in WA may be immature birds and many oversummer, 102 mm bill, molt very quickly and early, 140-200K, 370gm.  Abreviated eye stripe.

Bar-tailed godwit:  120K breed in AK.  340 gm, medium sized, supercillim increases behind the eye.  Fly non-stop from AK to Oceana, 6000 miles non-stop.

Ruddy Turnstone:  23 mm bill 235-267K, more common in WA in spring, less in fall.  110 gm. More of a generalist, will be seen on cobble beaches and other substrates

Black Turnstone:  60K, 120 gm, more exclusively on rocks.

Surfbird:  190 gm, (vs 110 gm for tattler)  plump, short plover like 24 mm bill, 10” long, second largest by length, 70-100K in world.

Rock Sandpiper:  small, 70gm.  Slightly decurved and to a point. Seenin migration and in early winter.  Very few in spring.  Later arriver in fall.  100-200K,  but one of the three species is not migratory, we have the tuscurim subspecies here.  Many stay to the N of us.

Discussion of bill length:  small bill < length of the head, medium bill = length fo the head, Long bill > length of the head.

Black Oystercatcher:  11K  need rocky substrate.

Black Necked Stilt:  E WA breeder.

Americal Avocet:  450K females have a longer and more curved bill.  Sentinals.

Upland Sandpipers:  possibly extirpated.

Red Knot:  36 mm bill, 400K in NA, but most in the eastern NA, 135 gm, plump, short legs, horizontal stance, sandy beaches and mud flats, very gregarious, rare in fall, more in spring, come through in numbers quickly, medium bill,

Sanderling: 26 mm bill, run in and out of the surf, 300K,

Semipalmated sandpiper: more in the fall, tubular stubby bill, 3.5M, 25 grams, 6 ¼ inches, slightly plumper looking, not as front heavy, walk steadily picking, aggressive toward other birds, 18 mm bill

Western Sandpiper:  long droopy bill, 25mm bill, 26 grams, droopy bill, roosting birds more upright, large flocks, likes mudflats  3.5-4M

Least sandpiper:  19 mm bill, 600K, 21 grams, smallest sandpiper in the world, crouches when feeding, picks more, walks steadily picking, higher on the sand or mud flats, small flocks, more loose flocks, more erratic flight on takeoff, steeper angle, short bill and crouching, so feed near their feet.

Baird’s sandpiper:  300K, mid Americas, seen juveniles in the fall,  38 grams, steep forehead, 23 mm fine tipped bill, very long wings often crossed, often seen in dry areas,

White-rumped sandpiper: on E coast, rare here.

Pectoral Sandpiper:  rare in spring, 30 mm bill, 73 grams, 8 ¾ inches, slightly decurved medium bill, small head, longer neck and head.  Primaries to the tail tip, salicornia, assoc. with buff breasted, upland areas.

Buff Breasted SP: fall bird,

Upland Sandpiper:  tail longer than the wings,

Sharp-tailed sandpiper:  again fall, 26 mm droopy bill, 8 ½ “, two tone bill, red cap, buffy chest

Dunlin:  38 mm bill, longer than the head, 1 ¼ M , 60 grams, sanderling sized, dun colored in winter, rapidly picks and probes, winters in good numbers, all large flocks in winter are dunlin primarily.

Stilt Sandpiper:  40 mm bill, droopy thick bill, 50-200K, rare in spring, more in fall, smaller than dowichers, walks steadily with bill down probing in the water, often belly deep, submerges head.  These birds walk as they probe steadily.

Buff-breasted sandpiper: 20 mm, 64 gm, less than annual in the fall.  Squarish small head, upright stance, pigeon like gate.

Ruff:  Ruffs and Reeves, Ruff size of GR YL, reeve size of LEYL.  Ruff 150 gm, short droopy bill, hunches when feeding, wanders continuously, rare in spring.

Short-billed dowichers:  60 mm, (vs 67mm in LB)  females longer bills, 320K, 110 gm, flatter backed in relaxed feeding pose, thicker at the base, subtle kink at the base, spotted at the side of the neck, large groups on salt water are mostly SB,  S=Short billed, salt water, spotted)

Long-billed dowicher:  Small groups on fresh water,

Wilson’s phalarope:  1.5M  60 gm, 9 ¼ inches, long needle like bill, mostly inland, rare on coast,

Red-necked phalarope:  35 grams, 7 ¾ “, compact, slim neck, inland, coastal and pelagic, striped back is key,

Red Phalarope: 1M in NA, 5M worldwide.  55 gm, 8 ½ inches, pelagic, on land after strong storm, heavy plover like bill.


Fall 2010 Class #4 Notes: Finishing Shorebird ID, More on Molt

Class #4 10-26-2010 

Review of Molt Strategies- Finish shorebirds.

Knowing what plumage a bird is in is a key in shorebird ID.  Know how to differentiate juvenile, formative, basic and alternate plumages.  To be an advanced shorebirder you need to know when the molts into these plumages happen for the various species.

White-rumped Sandpiper:  rare here, larger than Westerns, black legs, shorter bill than western, white eye stripe, long and attenuated, look for long primary projection.

Baird’s Sandpiper:  uncommon in fall, rare in spring.  Montaine migrant.  Up to 6000 feet.  Small flocks, thin black pointed bills.  Attenuated, above black centered feathers fringed with gray and wings so long they can be crossed, S. Hemisphere strategy, very long distance migrants.  i.e. don’t molt wing feathers in the US.  Complete formative molt.  Best to see in August to first week of Sept, look in salicornia, upper beaches, roost on upper beaches. Almost all juveniles.  Slightly larger than westerns.

Pectoral Sandpiper:  Also mostly seen in the fall, some adults in July to early August, but mostly juveniles in August thru Sept, a few in Oct.  Long greenish yellow legs.  Medium length two-toned bill, pale at the base, noticeable supercillium,  Split supercillium, fairly attenuated, slightly smaller than a dowicher, larger than a dunlin.  Look for collar, very defined, clear border. .White belly.  Salicornia, brackish or fresh water ponds.  Tend to be mid continental migrant.  There is a white mantle line.  Variable reddish on scapulars, coverts.  Some can have a reddish cap.

Sharp-tailed sandpiper:  about the size of a Pectoral.  Greenish yellow legs, similar bill.  Juvenile has very buffy breast, lacks streaks on central part, bleeds into the belly area.  Bright red cap.  Regular in the fall in small but variable numbers.   Have a white eye ring.  Eye stripe flares behind the eye.  As with other juveniles, later in the fall, they can be worn, and the white feather edges can be quite worn.  STSP has a white mantle line.  S. American strategy.  Eccentric wing molt in the formative plumage.  So don’t molt primaries in the US in fall migration.

Upland Sandpiper:  very rare in W WA in migration.  Long neck Yellowish legs, long legs.  Long tail, short wings.  Small head and small bill.  Unusual appearance.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper:  irregular in the fall.  Sewer ponds, golf courses.  Attenuated, long primaries. S Am strategy.  Bright yellow legs. Complete preformative molt.  Short pointed bill.  Beedy eye with pale head and pale eye ring.  Fringed back feathers make it a scalloped appearance.  White underwing.

Ruff:  fall migrant, mostly juveniles  Rare in spring.  Ruff is male, Reeve is female.  Ruff size of greater yellowlegs, reeve the size of lesser yellowlegs.  Three types of males.   See birding article in Birding.  Red, White and males that look like females.  Lek birds. Juvenile washed with buff on upper breast, little streaking.  (YL has streaking on breast) Brightly patterned above. Legs greenish yellow, no bright yellow.  Short thick based bill.  Long attenuated face, looks pulled forward face into the bill.  N.Hemisphere strategy eccentric molt.

Short-billed Dowichers:  Look on surfbird site for peep identification.  Best way to ID is by voice.  Fast mellow tew-tew-tew  Long billed is a sharp peek.  Early fall migrants, adults can be in TX by the end of July.  Female bills longer.  So female short-billed approach male long-billed.  Toughest plumage is worn breeding and winter plumage.  Adults first, large flocks, along the coast.  Mostly salt water.  Large flocks of hundreds to thousands of birds should be mostly or all SBs.   Short billed spotted breasts.  Slightly longer primary projection, up to 2 feathers.  (LB have none) In every plumage SB is brighter than LB.  This is due to the feathers on the back and coverts have white or rufous edges all the way up the feathers.  Note in the LB it is just the end of these feathers with rufous edging.  Two toned bill. Paler at the base. Kink in the lower bill tends to be at one place. More blunt tipped.

Long-billed Dowichers:  usually small to medium sized groups, favor fresh water ponds, bill longer, more evenly curved, more pointed.  In adult plumage stripes on flanks tend to wear off more so SB in worn plumage more spotted on flanks.  Eye placement is lower on LB, higher on SB.  Less steep forehead than SB.  Flatter posterior back in SB, more indented in the LB.   Central vein of the feathers of the covert and scapulars tend to be darker.   The black of the tail feathers is wider than the white, opposite in SB.  Helpful on some birds.

Two rules of primary molt: SB molt at coastal sites, mostly from N CA south.  LB can molt on breeding grounds and in early migration.

1.  If you see a dowicher in basic plumage away from the coast it is LB.

2.  If you see a dowicher in wing molt in the interior it is a LB, SB molts only at coastal sites, usually south of WA.

Dennis Paulson article on sandpipers in American Birds, about 2005  Flocking behavior.  Two main purposes.  One is social.  A species has similar flight patterns that aid in this.  A species of an off species falls out quickly because they fly slightly differently.  Second purpose is to avoid predators.

Sentinels see the predator first, Plovers, tringines, phalaropes, upland sandpipers and curlews.

Birds that flock together:

(Surfbirds, turnstones, rock sp)

(dunlin & sanderlings)

(Red knots and BBPL)

(Curlew and Godwits)

Sentinel species tend to space in feeding habitat, have loud calls.  Tend to have loose smaller flocks.

Probers are more at risk, have heads down more.  Dunlin, Stilt, dowichers, snipe, godwits, peeps are examples of probers.  Tend to have heads down, call less, form large flocks.  Probers tend to feed with sentinel species, when alone should need to spend more time watching out, have higher predation rates.


Stilt Sandpiper:  most juveniles.  Most in August and Sept.  August best,  E and W WA.  Mostly fresh water or sometimes brackish ponds.  Long billed, slightly larger than a dunlin, bright longish legs, blunt droopy bill, Juvenile buffy on the breast.  Somewhat attenuated, fairly long primary projection.  Fringed white back feathers.  Tend to be pickers, pick like a yellowlegs, will submerge their whole head, hold their bill down when walking feeding.

Wilson’s snipe:  cryptic coloration, both streaks and bars.

Wilson’s phalaropes:  rare migrant in W WA, breed E WA.  Poith wing. Plain wing and white tail.  Molt migrants. Gather in large groups in migration and molt in these sites.  Largest.

Red-necked phalaropes:  Much smaller than Wilson’s.    Smallest phalarope. Medium pointed bill.  Striped tail.  Striped back.  Aug – Oct.  After Oct 15th these are rare in WA.

Red Phalarope:  Plain backed.  Blunter bill. Striped tail.  Two tone shorter blunter bill.  Lighter cap and whitish forehead.   Slightly smaller than the Wilsons, much larger than the Red.

2010 Fall Class #1: Intro to Shorebirds

These notes are from the Oct, 5, 2010 Advanced Birding Class by Ken Brown, notes taken by Ed Pullen.

Tonight look at silhouettes.  Next week discuss molt, and start on plumage marks of shorebirds.  We will spend 3-4 weeks on shorebirds.  This class we will concentrate on shorebirds, gulls, and hawks, and briefly cover the rest.  Will look at more details like molt, flight characteristics.

Sibley Page 158-9 shows shorebirds in basic plumage.  Most are to scale.  Looking at scale and silhouettes.  Get the A Guide to Shorebirds book by Crosley et al.  You can ID 80+ % of shorebirds by  GISS.  Learn structure and behavior, it’s more intuitive.

Topography:  There are 5 rows of feathers in the scapulars.  Primaries are usually black, and you can count the tips.  Tertials and scapulars cover the primaries.
Primary projection is very important.

Scapular lines and mantle lines can be important. Look to see if the mantle feathers line up to make a whitish line on the edge of the mantle.

In the flying bird primary feathers numbered from the inside out, most have 9-10 primaries, i.e outermost is #`10.  Secondaries numbered from outside in, i.e. #1 is outermost.  Variable numbers, most have about 16.   Tertials lie just inside the secondaries,   Look at Big Sibley page 18 to see how the wings close under the tertials.  In the tail the two R1’s are together in the middle of the tail.  The primary coverts cover the primaries, and like the primaries the feather tracts originate from the wrist and form the hand,  the greater coverts cover the secondaries, if the greater covert tips are white it gives a wing stripe.  The Alula is the tip of the “bastard wing” at the very tip of the front of the wrist.

GISS:  General Impression Structure and Shape.  Relative size is very important, and often see mixed flocks, so you can often get several species in a group.  One shorebird by itself can be difficult.  If there are no other birds around relate size to a bird you know.  Look at structure, i.e. bill length to the length of the head.  If the bill is the length of the head it is average bill length.  Leg length, bill length, bill thickness, pointy or blunt bill, thick or thin at the base?, chunky or slim bird, attenuated or stocky, short neck like semipalmated SP or longer like western SP?

After these, go to the fine points, leg color, wing projection, bill color, i.e field marks.

Behavior:  how does it feed, visually or tactile feeder; deep prober or shallow probing, pick or probe, aggressive or methodical feeder (YLs)  Large tightly packed, or loose scattered flock.  Least SPs scatter, Western and dunlin tightly packed.  Voice can be diagnostic.

Probability is very important.  Know what to expect.  In July a large flock of dowichers is likely SB,  Long-billed often smaller flocks, later in the year.  Large flock of small shorebirds in the winter is always made up of primarily dunlin in WA.  Now (Oct.) if we see a dowicher at the coast, 90% LB.  Too late to likey be SB.

To get used to the intuitive approach, watch your  feeder.  Look at behaviors, eg. if you see a “Song Sparrow” like bird scratching on the ground it is a Fox Sparrow.  Song sparrows don’t scratch.

Silhouettes.  Look at the pictures in the shorebird book. 

Snowy Plover rounded belly, flat on the back, short legs.  Very short tail and bill.

Semipalmated plover more attenuated, though still stocky.

Killdeer nice rounded head, bill almost as long as the head, long tail.

Mountain Plover:  Killdeer size, long legs, upright, rounded head, medium sized bill,

Golden plovers:  Pacific smaller head and longer legs, Pacific bigger in the chest, American longer primary and wing projection,

Black Belied Plover:  Big headed, heavy looking, Big round head, short if any wing projection.

Upland Sandpiper:  very unique, medium to long bill on tiny head, long neck, very short wings, tail longer.

Pectoral sandpiper:  fairly long bill, blockish head, attenuated. Slightly larger than a dunlin.

Buff Breasted:  rounded head, habitat is key.

Oystercatcher:  big, stocky bill.

Whimbrel:  shorter more acutely curved bill.  Striped head.

LB Curlew:  attenuated, very long bill, overall rosy brown.

American Avocet:  note the Adam’s apple

Sometimes in non-breeding territory birds segregate by sex, females farther south.

Greater Yellowlegs: more aggressive, fast feeder,

Lesser Yellowlegs:  smaller, ½ the wt of greater. More attenuated, slimmer, straight bill, medium length, all black bill.

Solitary sandpiper:  Long bill, slightly decurved. Compact, smaller than lesser YL and dowichers.  Almost always alone. Early fall migrants.

Eastern and Western Willet:  long bill thick at the base, Western is larger and darker than the Eastern.

Hudsonian Godwit:  slightly smaller than Marbled, smaller bill, can show up in a flock godwits.  Wing stripe and banded tail.

Bar Tailed:  slightly smaller, two tone bill also.  Tends to be two toned earlier in the year.  In molt can be more uniform.  Use the eye stripe on Bar tailed.  Flares behind the eye, vs. marbled ends by the eye.


Bairds Sandpiper & White-rumped are bigger that the other three.

Bills:  Bairds needle like, thin throughout, white rumped bigger and two toned, western droopy, semipalmated thick at the base, short and blunt, least shallow at the base, to a point, and slightly decurved.

Baird’s and White-rumped have longer primary projection, in Baird’s so long the wings are sometimes crossed. In WA only fairly common long winged peep is Baird’s.

Western and Semi-palmated have short primary projection,

Least very small, small bill, short primary projection.

Western vs. Semi-palmated:  Bill is helpful, but juvenile westerns can have shorter bill too, but is droopy and not thick at the base.  Western more bull necked and front heavy.  Feeding is different.  Western probe and pick, Semi-palmated runs and picks.

Least tends to feed near its feet.

Spotted Sandpiper:  Southern Hemisphere in winter, most gone by now. Medium to long, attenuated.  Bobbing their tail.  (vs whole body bobbing in Solitary SP)

Baird’s tend to shuffle their feet and tend to bob their head with every step.

Dunlin: ( you have to know this, and the really common ones.) black legs and black droopy bill, much bigger than Western.  Longer than the head bill. Wing stripe.

Sanderling:  size of dunlin, on the beach, chase the waves, short to medium bill.  Black bill and legs.

Red Knot:  more in the spring.  Bigger than dowichers, more upright, chunky.  Medium length pointed bill,

Rock sandpiper:  Turnstone sized, small, pointed droopy bill.  Solid gray above in winter.

Surfbird:  large stocky

Wandering Tattler:  long attenuated, uniformly colored.

Stilt Sandpiper:  smaller than dowicher, upright, rounded head, walk and pick with their bill down,

Dowichers:  Key is the voice.

Phalaropes:  Habitat/ probability.  Red necked smallest, just bigger than western.  Red is biggest.  Bill shape key.  Red Phalarope has plover-like and two-toned bill.

Some Articles to Look at:


Migrants,  Mono Lake,  Monsoons, and Molt


Identification of North American Peeps A different Approach to an Old Problem


A tale of Two Strategies: New Advances in the Field Identification of Dowitchers