When folks think about tropical, sandy beaches, Idaho doesn’t usually come to mind. Well, as far as humans go. As for the subjects of March’s Wildlife Express newsletter, on the other hand, Idaho’s shorelines are a five-star resort.
Shorebirds is a broad term, used to define birds that, you guessed it, inhabit shorelines. Composed of sandpipers, phalaropes, plovers, avocets and stilts, shorebirds are charismatic little birds that enjoy long walks on the beach—including river shores, marshes and mud flats. Their bodies are often small, supported by toothpick-like legs that enable them to wade through muddy terrain. Their beaks are typically long and narrow like needle-nose pliers, helping them pick up tiny invertebrates buried down in the water and mud.
Sandpipers tend to be the most recognizable member of the shorebird family; however, sandpiper is an umbrella term and is comprised of 87 individual species, including the recognizable least sandpiper and the long-billed curlew — the largest shorebird in North America.
Plovers are another interesting shorebird that have a clever trick. When a predator gets too close to their nest, killdeer and other plovers will fake a broken wing to lure the predator away. Once the predator is out of range, the bird flies off.
In fact, flying is a big part of a shorebird’s daily routine. Of the 38 species that have been seen in Idaho, most only visit our state for brief stops during migration.