Stilt Sandpiper at Angostura

Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus): Correlimos patilargo; Bindenstrandläufer; Bécasseau à échasses

Conditions are now ideal for waders at Angostura but nobody expected to find a Stilt Sandpiper in our area. Normally, the nearest good habitat for waders is to be found near Coris, Cartago, but recent changes in water management at Angostura Dam have brought a host of good sightings. Pick of the litter, however, is definitely this long-legged North American migrant, which can be found normally only on the Pacific coast in the Gulf of Nicoya. Even there it is rated uncommon.

In breeding plumage this species is heavily barred below and has rufous patches on the cheeks, but our North American visiting shorebirds are almost always in non-breeding plumage by the time they arrive here.

Stilt Sandpiper, a true rarity in Turrialba; photo by John Beer

The Stilt Sandpiper is still conspicuous, once it steps out of the water, because of the length of its yellow-green legs. The bill is quite heavy and droops slightly at the tip, while a feature to note is that it leans further forward to feed than do other sandpipers, so that its rear almost points upwards (The Sibley Guide to Birds, p. 190)

Stilt Sandpiper picks through the mud; photo by John Beer

The Stilt Sandpiper breeds in the Arctic tundra and migrates even further south than Costa Rica as far as Tierra del Fuego. Here in Costa Rica it appears only rarely inland. Larry found this next bird in Minnesota in September and ponders whether it could be the same individual! Don’t think so, Larry. You’re the only long-distance migrant appearing in both Minnesota and Turrialba, Costa Rica!

A very pretty shot of a Stilt Sandpiper at Grand Marais, Minnesota, September 2020; photo by Larry Waddell

Here’s the same bird with long legs no longer in view, perhaps using those partially webbed feet to swim:

Stilt Sandpiper, Grand Marais, Minnesota, on his way south; photo by Larry Waddell

Our Turrialba bird was also able to see his reflection, in waters bound ultimately for the Caribbean:

Stilt Sandpiper up to his knees in water at Angostura; photo by John Beer

A final shot of the Turrialba Stilt Sandpiper, now posed looking to the right:

Stilt Sandpiper at Angostura Dam on the Río Reventazóñ photo by John Beer

Now that I’m back in Turrialba I’ll be looking for this guy among the Yellowlegs we sometimes get.

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