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Willet

Tringa semipalmata

Willets can be identified in flight by their prominent, distinctive white wing stripe. (Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr)
Willets can be identified in flight by their prominent, distinctive white wing stripe. (Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr)

The willet is a large, grayish-brown sandpiper with a distinctive black and white wing pattern. It lives in the Chesapeake Bay’s salt marshes and on tidal flats from spring through autumn.

Appearance:

  • Mottled grayish-brown plumage
  • Brown belly
  • Large white wing stripe bordered by black
  • Long, straight bill
  • Bluish-gray legs
  • Grows to 17 inches

Habitat:

  • Lives in salt marshes and along tidal flats
  • Often seen bobbing on the water’s surface close to the shoreline

Range:

  • Visits the Chesapeake Bay from spring through autumn
  • Particularly common along the Bay’s eastern shoreline
  • Moves to the Atlantic coast in winter

Feeding:

  • Eats small fish and invertebrates such as worms, insects, mollusks, amphipods and fiddler crabs

Predators:

  • Predators of adult willets include hawks, herring gulls, snakes and otters
  • Crows, ravens, snakes, foxes and raccoons all prey upon willet eggs and young

Flight:

  • Can be identified in flight by its prominent, distinctive black and white wing pattern

Voice:

  • Makes a noisy pill-will-willet

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Nests in the lower Eastern Shore’s tidal marshes from mid-May to late July
  • Females lay an average of four olive-colored eggs into a grass-covered depression in the ground
  • The male incubates the eggs at night
  • About 2-3 weeks after the chicks hatch, the female abandons the nest. The male remains for about two more weeks to care for them.
  • Can live for 10 years

Other Facts:

  • Tends to be nervous, often sounding an alarm call at the first sign of danger

Sources and Additional Information:




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