When NC Culture contacted Keith Green about doing some shore bird identification, Keith came thru in spades! Keith is often out hiking and stalking things to photograph in the Southport-Holden Beach areas, and frequently sees things that we may not know about..and a prime example is some of the bird pictures he shared. We thought it would be nice to kind of do a simple ID guide for folks headed to this beach area soon, and also learned some things in the process: for example, did you know that Oystercatchers share a quirk with Cowbirds? Or that Plover groups are sometimes called a “congregation”?
We will be following the shore bird identification with a wading bird identification post in the next few weeks..we hope these extremely clear pictures help you find out which bird you may be enjoying, without a lot of hunt and peck being done..Enjoy!
This basic guide is alphabetical in order of the bird, and we have included a link for Wikepedia for those who might want to learn more.
The Dowitcher is a migratory bird, of which 2 are found in the United States..the short-billed, and the long-billed. They are a medium size bird, and are closely related to the snipe (yes, there really IS a snipe!)
Tending to nest in ground colonies, gulls are opportunistic, and have strong scavenging traits…anyone who has ever left out exposed food or bait can attest to this..a gull will snatch food in a second. One unusual things about gulls? They are one of the few birds who have exhibited an ability to use tools to achieve their goals, such as supplying bait to entice the more desired fish for their dinner.
Primarily existing on insects, the Killdeer is one of our birds that uses distraction to protect its’ nest. If threatened, the Killdeer will mimic being injured (the broken wing act) to lure predators in a different direction, and as soon as it considers the nest safe, it “heals” and flies away! They are ground nesters, and the eggs are speckled to blend with the landscape.
These particular birds are “plover-like”, and have an unfortunate trait they share with the cowbird..they will dump their eggs in another species’ nest for hatching. This is not a common practice, as they do build their own nests on the ground, and also have speckled eggs similar to the speckling found on Killdeer eggs.
It’s a rare NC-er who has not stopped to admire a pelican in our coastal region. These unusual birds are often seen flying the shore line, or waiting patiently atop a pier pole for someone to drop a fish! The long, large bill is used for draining their catch before digesting. The interesting fact we found about pelicans? Depending on the particular species, the nests can either be found on the ground or up in trees.
There are several different types of Plovers, including the controversial Piping Plover found on the Outer Banks. Plovers are often the birds you see running and stopping on the beach as they hunt for food. An interesting bit of information? Groups of plovers are called a stand, a wing, or even a congregation!
Skimmers are unusual in that they actually are able to skim the water, due to the unique shape of their bills. The lower part of the bill is longer than the upper part, and the skimming allows them to snap up fish unable to quickly dart away.
There are many different terns, and they are colony nesters. Terns rarely swim, although they do have webbed beet. An interesting note regarding terns? Although they hunt by diving, it is rare to see a tern glide.
We hope you have enjoyed this basic guide, and stay tuned for the wading bird guide..we are truly looking forward to sharing this, and hope that these help people who like a quick picture for reference. Special thanks to Keith Green for the photography!