A Beginner’s Guide to Wader Identification. Part 3

Having read through Parts 1 and 2, here’s something to practice on!


Start the video (below) and pause or replay it when necessary. The video starts by showing a Little (Striated) Heron to give you some idea of size. See how you get on at putting each bird into one of the 5 groups (Part 2) or even naming them beyond that.

1. (00.00) Striated/Little Heron

2. (00.05)

3. (00.09)

4. (00.11)

5. (00.19)

6. (00.30)

7. (00.41)

8. (00.49)

9-11. (01.03)

12-13. (01.13)

14-15. (01.20)

16. (01.26)

A few things to look for are:

1. If it’s looking for food, how would you describe its actions (e.g. continuous pecking, stop, go, peck, etc)?

2. If the Little Heron is size L (See Part 2), what size would you judge each bird (e.g. S, M, L or XL)?

3. What’s the shape and length of the bill (e.g. straight, <1x head length; down-curved, 1.5x head length, etc)? Any colour visible (e.g. coloured base, black tip; all black, etc)?

4. How long are the legs (e.g. long – >1x body height; medium = body height; short – <1x body height, etc)? Any colours (black, grey, orange, etc)? NB On this video, some legs look a bit yellower than in real life!

5. What shape is the body (e.g. long and slender, short and fat, upright, horizontal, etc)?

6. Don’t worry about plumage too much, but note any obvious patterns or patches of light and dark (e.g. complete or partial breastband, dark ‘mask’, dark on bend of wing, line through eye and eyebrow, etc).

Once you’ve done as much as you can, if you want, send me your best guesses and questions and I’ll do my best to let you know how you got on! This isn’t a competition by the way – so don’t send in your answers if this is ‘easy’ for you!

SPOILER ALERT! I’ve added a ‘cheat sheet’ with the answers in the Replies section.


4 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Wader Identification. Part 3

  1. OK – here’s a cheat sheet! Look away now if you don’t want to know! If you want to read the answers, I suggest you open the video in a new tab so you can watch and read at the same time.

    1. (00.00) Striated/Little Heron

    2. (00.05) The medium length straight bill and long legs mean this can only be Group 2 (godwits/dowitchers) or 3 (shanks). Hopefully you picked up the bright coloured legs, even if you couldn’t see the colour, and the fact that it is a lot smaller than the heron, which narrows it down to… Group 3. It’s a shank!

    3. (00.09) The short thick, blunt bill and large eye, and the feeding behaviour, should enable you to classify this as Group 4 (Plovers). You might be able to spot that the back is plain brown, which makes it a Charadrius plover, not a Pluvialis.

    4. (00.11) The small size (same as the plover), rapid probing feeding action and longish downcurved bill only fit Group 5 – the smaller sandpipers.

    5. (00.19) You might need to go back to 00.05 to compare the size of this with the earlier bird. If you do, you’ll see it’s similar. The coloured legs and medium length straight bill confirm it’s another shank (Group 3).

    6. (00.30) Another big-eyed, short, thick, blunt-billed bird with a pecking rather than a probing feeding action; another Group 4 Charadrius plover

    7. (00.41) Should be getting used to these by now – another shank!

    8. (00.49) And another Charadrius plover

    9-11. (01.03) And more Charadrius plovers! The trick is not to get distracted by colours. Focus on size, structure, behaviour and plumage patterns

    12-13. (01.13) Seen this one before? Long, bright coloured legs, medium length straight bill = another shank (Group 3)

    14-15. (01.20) And two more.

    16. (01.26) You hopefully thought this was something new! Very long upturned bill, very short legs which might be coloured. Not doing much behaviour-wise. This is a Group 3, but not a true shank – one of the so-called ‘shank allies’

    So, there were only 3 of the 5 groups in this video – not too difficult I hope. Now that you’ve narrowed them down to a group, you might want to try putting a name to some or all of them.

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