Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



Jorgensen, "A Review of the Status of Limnodromus griseus, the Short-Billed Dowitcher, in Nebraska," from Nebraska Bird Review (September 1996) 64(3).


Copyright 1996, Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


The two North American dowitchers are notoriously difficult to distinguish from each other. This is not only true of field observations, but there are several instances where a specimen identified as one species was found to be the other upon review. Limnodromus scolopaceus, the Long-billed Dowitcher, has always been considered the common dowitcher in Nebraska, while Limnodromus griseus, the Short-billed Dowitcher, is less common. Confusion about identification and the lack of consistent, well-documented records have caused the status of L. griseus in Nebraska to be a matter of speculation.

Taxonomy of dowitchers was for some time confused. Studies of speciation by Rowan (1932) and Pitelka (1950) clarified the status of L. scolopaceus and L. griseus as distinct species. Three subspecies of L. griseus are recognized. L.g. griseus breeds in eastern Canada, and migrates and winters along the Atlantic Coast. L.g. caurinus breeds in Alaska and migrates and winters along the Pacific Coast. L.g. hendersoni breeds in central Canada and migrates through the interior east of the Rockies to the Atlantic Coast. This is the subspecies expected in Nebraska; it was known as the "Alberta Dowitcher" by early ornithologists.