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September 2009


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Dennis and Barbara Martin <[log in to unmask]>
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Dennis and Barbara Martin <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 14 Sep 2009 13:50:40 -0600
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 You asked:

>  I did have an exciting moment observing one Pectoral Sandpiper. It was 
> noticably larger than the other Pecs, but smaller than the nearby 
> yellowlegs. It had a very bright orange bill, more distinct supercilium 
> and lighter overall facial area, and compared to the other Pecs, a cleaner 
> throat and upper chest, but still "dirty". If it wasn't for the bird being 
> smaller than the yellowlegs, I would have called it a Ruff in winter 
> plumage! I recall we had this same situation in our county last year, but 
> I don't remember what some of the theories were whether it was a juvenile 
> Pectoral or what. Any ideas?

Since I have seen no answers to your question from a couple of days ago I 
presume that nobody bothered to answer.  I have noticed over many years that 
Pectoral Sandpipers seem to have more size variation than just about any 
other shorebird.  Off the top of my head I cannot think of another one with 
such a large variation.  Richard Crossley in the The Shorebird Guide said 
males average 25-35% bigger.  Enough difference that a larger Baird's or 
White-rumped Sandpiper is probably closer in size to a smaller female 
Pectoral Sandpiper than that female is to a larger male Pectoral Sandpiper. 
Dennis Paulson in Shorebirds of North America, The Photographic Guide says 
basicly the same thing.  Both authors use dimensions that are similar to 
each other.

Thus if both the larger and smaller sandpipers were Pectorals then you were 
observing sexual size differences.  A male Ruff can have a orange bill but a 
male Ruff is closer in size to a Greater Yellowlegs.  The female Ruff always 
has a dark bill and the size generally is closer to a Lesser Yellowlegs. 
Thus a bird nearly the size of the Lesser Yellowlegs cannot have been a Ruff 
because of the yellow bill and size being in conflict.  Could the larger 
bird have been a male Pectoral Sandpiper in a loose flock of Bairds 
Sandpipers.  In a lot of ways Bairds can resemble Pectorals.  Also Bairds 
are common on sod farms.  A Pectoral Sandpiper will have a more distinct 
supercillium than a Bairds Sandpiper and will appear less muddy on the chest 
due to sharper and darker more distinct markings.

Just thoughts for you to consider.


Dennis and Barbara Martin
Shorewood, MN
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