Subject: Little Stint
Date: Sep 9 17:44:16 1994
From: Greg Gillson - gregg at

Readers of Oregon Birders On-Line will recall that on Monday I had seen
a "mystery sandpiper" that I was unable to identify. Well, with some
research, and hints from some of you, I have reached a descision:

Little Stint!

[Well, there goes my good reputation! (I did have a *good* reputation,
didn't I?)]

Following is my report to the Oregon Bird Records Committee. If not
accepted, at least it will give them something to debate for a while!

Greg Gillson <gregg at>
Hillsboro, OR


Rare Bird Report

Little Stint, juvenile

Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove, Washington Co., Oregon
Monday, 5 September, 1994

Greg Gillson
311 Park Street
Banks, OR 97106

(503) 324-0508

Small shorebird in with flock of juvenile Western Sandpipers feeding on edge
of water, seldom wading in. Slightly smaller than any other male Western
Sandpiper present, and chased away by every other Western. Much rustier on
wings and back than Western Sandpiper. The bill was shorter than the head,
stout, coming to a blunt end. The legs were black. A bright white line of
feathers separated the upper and lower scapulars. All feathers of the wing
were clean and bright, with wide margins indicating juvenile plumage, which is
expected at this time of year.

Upon closer inspection, two diagnostic marks, which eliminate Western
Sandpiper, were noted: 1) the toes were definitely unwebbed, and 2) the
pattern of the lower scapulars were solid black centers with reddish-brown

The toes connected directly to the leg without the appearance of the "foot"
that Western Sandpiper shows. I had several views in which the spread toes
merged together sharply with no palmation.

All feathers of the wing were rusty; the upper scapulars and tertials had
solid black centers with bright rufous edges (the "chestnut" color of
Western's scapulars); the lower scapulars as well had black centers and
reddish-brown edges, the rest of the wing coverts were paler and fringed with
pale rusty.

The crown was darker than most Western Sandpipers, made up of short black and
brown streaks. This made the broad pale eyebrow more apparent as if flared out
behind the eye. The ear coverts and hind-neck were buffy-brown. The upper
breast was also buffy-brown breaking into indistinct streaks on the sides of
the upper breast.

Details of observation:
+15 minutes at about 3:15 p.m. Bird observed at distances between 60-80 feet
with 22x scope. Sunny skies. The bird was in an east-southeast direction from
the observer, while the sun was high overhead to the southwest. This was on
the east side of the large (north) pond of the former Forest Grove sewage
facility. The pond was nearly dry, and I was able to walk out on the pond bed
quite a ways, but the birds concentrated near the dike on the south edge.

Other shorebirds present:
Killdeer 15
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Western Sandpiper 50
Least Sandpiper 10
Pectoral Sandpiper 3
Long-billed Dowitcher 3

Elimination of similar species:
Western Sandpiper: The observed bird was very similar to a small juvenile male
Western Sandpiper in bill and body shape. I am quite confident that the toes
of this bird were unwebbed. In addition, the centers of the lower scapulars
were solidly black, not brownish with black "anchor-shaped" marks. The dark-
centered tertials with bright rufous edges are also not typical of Western.
The crown and eyestripe showed more contrast than juvenile Westerns.

Least Sandpiper: The darker coloration of the upperparts of the observed bird,
coupled with the wash on the upper breast, made Least Sandpiper a logical
choice. Besides the jet-black legs, the observed bird had a shorter, blunter
bill than the thinly tapering bill of Least Sandpiper.

"Rufescent" Semipalmated Sandpiper: Basically, the same argument against
Western Sandpiper applies to this bird: the observed bird lacked webbing
between the toes, and had dark, rather than pale centers to the lower
scapulars and tertials. The crown and ear covert of the observed bird were not

Rufous-necked Stint: This bird does have the unwebbed toes of the observed
bird, and the generally short bill. But this sandpiper has gray centers with
dark shafts and subterminals, the "anchor" shape, to lower scapulars, wing
coverts, and tertials, unlike the observed bird.

I have no experience with Little Stint outside of this observation. Even
though my observations all seem to point to Little Stint, and to eliminate all
other candidates, I am not terribly confident of the identification. This must
be a species that, like Empids, require experience to be confident in

I observed the bird on Monday, but didn't reach an identification until
Friday. This was due to time restraints, but also aided by e-mail from
Michael Price <Michael_Price at>, who read a description of my
"mystery sandpiper." I spent considerable time (again) reading "Field
identification of smaller sandpipers within the genus Calidris" by Veit and
Johnson, in American Birds Vol. 38, N. 5 (Sept-Oct 1984).

Interesting comments from Michael Price: "Some juv Western Sandpipers (WESA
from here on) have distinctly buffy fringes to coverts...but WESA scaps have
rufous *centers* with black subterminal tips." Regarding separating
'rufescent' Semipalmated Sandpiper from Little Stint: "Nowadays, the SESA--
LIST I.D. problem is much more well-known in the US & Can. The concensus of
Brit & European shorebird junkies is they can sometimes be so similar that
*only* by seeing whether the toes are webbed or unwebbed can you separate
them." He noted about my observation: "The other marks, incidentally, are also
consistent with LIST, as is the fact it got pounded on by the rest: SESA is
usually as truculent as WESA and normally won't hesitate to duke it out with

There are 2 previous records of this stint in Oregon accepted by the Rare Bird
Records Committee.