WILLET

WILLET (Tringa semipalmata)
DESCRIPTION: The Willet is a shorebird. In breeding plumage it is mottled brown almost all over. The legs are dark grey. The bill is also dark and straight, and slightly longer than the head. In the winter the plumage is grey. When flying, their wings display large white and black bands.  It is fairly large at about 40 cm (15 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Tringa-semipalmata – When alarmed willets emit a piercing call.
NAME: The English name ‘Willet’ would be an onomatopoeia for the bird’s call. The Latin genus name ‘Tringa’ means ‘sandpiper’, and the Latin species name ‘semipalmata’ means just that, semipalmated.
HABITAT: Coastal salt marshes and prairie freshwater marshes.
DIET: Willets hunt for small invertebrates in the mud or sand.
NESTING:  They breed on the ground in a well hidden depression among wetland grasses. Around four greenish eggs are laid, which are incubated by both parents. The male cares for the chicks. If a predator – including a human – gets too close to the nest, this bird will do the ‘broken wing trick’ (limping with an extended wing dragging on the ground) to lure the potential predator away from the nest.
DISTRIBUTION: This species inhabits salt marshes on the Atlantic coast, and winters further down that coast in South America. Another group breeds on the prairie freshwater marshes in the west part of North America. Some individuals have been able to reach Hawaii.
ON PEI: The willet breeds on Prince Edward Island, and is considered as ‘common’ to ‘fairly common’ except in the winter
CONSERVATION: Willet populations have been impacted by hunting for food in the past century, and more recently by habitat loss, as for most other shorebird species.
NOTES: The Willet is part of the sandpiper family, shorebirds with many similarities.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs
REFERENCES: https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/willet
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/217/_/Willet.aspx
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/willet
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Willet/id
http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/willet.htm (New Hampshire PBS)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willet

Willet with its feet visible - Souris area, PEI - July 27, 2013 - photo by Roberta Palmer
Willet with its feet visible – Souris area, PEI – July 27, 2013 – Roberta Palmer
Willet in non-breeding plumage - St. George Island, FL - Apr. 1, 2018 - photo by Roberta Palmer
Willet in non-breeding plumage – St. George Island, FL – Apr. 1, 2018 – Roberta Palmer
Willet in flight - Grayton State Park, FL - Mar. 28, 2018 - photo by Roberta Palmer
Willet in flight – Grayton State Park, FL – Mar. 28, 2018 – Roberta Palmer
Willet - St. George Island, FL - Apr. 1, 2018 - photo by Roberta Palmer
Willet – St. George Island, FL – Apr. 1, 2018 – Roberta Palmer

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