As mentioned in yesterday's post, willets are among the few shorebirds to summer on the beaches of Florida; indeed, they are found along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts throughout the year, from southern New England to Mexico. Willets that winter along the Pacific Coast breed inland, using wetland areas from the Great Basin to the Northern Plains.
These lanky sandpipers probe wet sand and mudflats for small mollusks, worms and other marine invertebrates; feeding day and night, they may be seen alone or in small flocks. If disturbed, they often fly off with loud shrieks and it is then that their prominent black and white wing stripes are easily visualized. Nests are placed in shallow depressions on the ground, generally hid in salt marshes or grassy sand dunes; both parents incubate the eggs but chick rearing is primarily left to the male.
While beginning birders (and many veterans) find it difficult to identify the varied sandpiper species that visit or inhabit coastal beaches, willets provide a welcome exception, standing out among their shorter cousins. Nothing like a confident addition to the life list!