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Text and Photos by Peter Vankevich
A chunky shorebird with short orange legs and dark bill. In spring, it has stunning harlequin-like plumage of white, black and orange/red colors. Its basic plumage in fall and winter is more subtle with a brownish back and white belly.
It breeds in the high arctic tundra and is circumpolar.
In its breeding area in the arctic, it feeds primarily on insects. Post breeding its habitat is rocky and sandy beaches and gets its name foraging by probing and turning over rocks, pebbles, seaweeds, sea shells, and other items with its strong bill. Its diet is diverse and includes small fish, insects, worms, mollusks and carrion, including dead fish.
Winters on the coast in the East from Massachusetts in small numbers all the way to South America.
(audio provided courtesy of OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons)
When to see: Best times are spring up to the end of May and in August into the fall. In winter, may be on Ocracoke in small numbers or absent. A few nonbreeders may be around in summer.
Where: On the beach, especially South Point, northern Ferry terminal area, Pony Pasture when there is standing water, sound side when flats are exposed, and Springer’s Pont.
Birds of the Outer Banks Checklist