Long-billed Dowitcher at Lago San Pablo!

Long-billed-Dowitcher DMB1Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus is a boreal migrant that winters primarily in North and Central America. Sightings in South America are exceedingly few with only three fully confirmed records (Putnam et al. 2009).

Long-billed-Dowitcher DMB2On 3 March 2012 a dowitcher in basic plumage was found by Juan Freile at a marshy area directly behind the "estadio of Cachiviro" on the south bank of Lago San Pablo, prov. Imbabura. JF was aware of the fact that an inland "freshwater" dowitcher might well involve a Long-billed but he could not identify the bird with certainty. He reported the sighting to fellow birdwatchers that went to look for it on 7 March but did not manage to find it. On 18 March Jonas Nilsson re-found the dowitcher at Cachiviro and positively identified it by call as Long-billed Dowitcher. In the afternoon it was relocated and photographed by Roger Ahlman, a few hundred meters further west towards Hotel Puerto Lago.

On 22 March we went to look for the dowitcher and saw it at Cachiviro. The bird was standing on a small grassy island together with a Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes and we observed it for about 15 minutes at c. 20m distance. We took several photos of the bird but most importantly we managed to record two types of vocalizations: (1) calls while perched (XC97259) and (2) flight calls (XC97260). It flew west and it seemed to land at the marshy patch nearby Hotel Puerto Lago.


Separating Long-billed and Short-billed Dowitcher is a significant challenge and the status of Long-billed Dowitcher in South America has probably been obscured for this reason. The dowitcher of Lago San Pablo was in basic plumage which represents the most difficult to identify plumage. Most individuals are nearly impossible to identify, however, some field marks, when collectively used, can be fairly reliable (Lee & Birch 2006). The most reliable and easiest field identification of dowitchers is done by their flight calls. The Long-billed Dowitcher has an oystercatcher-like call versus a turnstone-like flight call in Short-billed Dowitcher. The dowitcher of San Pablo produced high "keek" calls which are diagnostic for Long-billed Dowitcher.Long-billed-Dowitcher DMB4

The Long-billed Dowitcher became recently known to Ecuador by two specimens: (1) a specimen collected during the Salvadori & Festa expedition on 9 October 1896 in prov. Cañar and (2) a bird collected by T. Mena on 14 December 1929 at Lago de Colta, prov. Chimborazo (Putnam et al. 2009).

This record at Lago San Pablo represents the first confirmed field sighting of Long-billed Dowitcher for Ecuador!

Dušan Brinkhuizen, Lorena Córdova and Charlie Vogt


  • Lee, C.-T. & Birch, A. (2006) Advances in the field identification of North American dowitchers. Birding 38: 34–42.
  • Putnam, C. G., Jones, A. W. & Ridgely, R.S. (2009) Two Long- billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus specimens from Ecuador. Cotinga 31: 130-132.

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Aves Ecuador by Dušan M. Brinkhuizen