The Willet (Tringa semipalmata), is a large shorebird in the sandpiper family. It is a good-sized and stout scolopacid, the largest of the shanks. Its closest relative is the Lesser Yellowlegs, a much smaller bird with a very different appearance apart from the fine, clear, and dense pattern of the neck, which both species show in breeding plumage. [Wikipedia]
Adults have gray legs and a long, straight, dark and stout bill. The body is dark gray above and light underneath. The tail is white with a dark band at the end. It is 13-15 inches long. The distinctive black and white pattern of the wings is a common sight along many North American coastal beaches.[Wikipedia]
Piercing calls and distinctive wing markings make the otherwise subdued Willet one of our most conspicuous large shorebirds. Whether in mottled brown breeding plumage or gray winter colors, Willets in flight reveal a bold white and black stripe running the length of each wing. These long-legged, straight-billed shorebirds feed along beaches, mudflats, and rocky shores. Willets are common on most of our coastline—learn to recognize them, and they’ll make a useful stepping-stone to identifying other shorebirds. [All About Birds]
Willet Facts [All About Birds]
- Willets and other shorebirds were once a popular food. In his famous Birds of America accounts, John James Audubon wrote that Willet eggs were tasty and the young “grow rapidly, become fat and juicy, and by the time they are able to fly, afford excellent food.” By the early 1900s, Willets had almost vanished north of Virginia. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 banned market hunting and marked the start of the Willet’s comeback.
- Like Killdeer, Willets will pretend to be disabled by a broken wing to draw attention to themselves and lure predators away from their eggs or chicks.
- Because they find prey using the sensitive tips of their bills, and not just eyesight, Willets can feed both during the day and at night.
- The oldest known Willet in North America was a female and banded in Oregon. She was at least 10 years, 3 months old when she was found in California.