Little Stint

Calidris minuta


Sean Williams
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eBird Checklist S47579293
Monomoy NWR
Barnstable, Massachusetts, United States
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Latitude and Longitude 41.5913, -69.988 Map



This photo shows the notched gape particularly well.

Observation details

***Mega. This adult was mostly in breeding plumage still, and roosting among ~600 shorebirds containing largely Semipalmated Sandpipers with some Semipalmated Plovers and Sanderlings. The roost was on the inner beach just south of the junction of South Beach and South Monomoy. According the MARC database, this would be a 7th state record. Four of those seven records come from South Beach, immediately adjacent and connected to South Monomoy (it’s all one land mass now). Another record comes from Morris Island just last year in August 2017, found by Sue Finnegan and John Pratt. Originally MRW and SMW detected a small, lone, sleeping shorebird with a noticeably orange nape. The size of the bird narrowed the identification down to a peep, and the color of the nape seemed to rule out Semipalmated, Western, and Least Sandpipers. We conjectured that the bird might be a stint, and so further investigation was warranted. We cautiously approached the shorebird flock to within 20 m, and angled ourselves slightly to the side of the flock. From this angle we were able to view the scapulars, coverts, and tertials, most of which were black-centered and edged with an intense rufous. At this point, we were confident that the sleeping sandpiper was a Little Stint. We abandoned our scopes and encroached further on the flock to document this sighting with photographs. We gingerly inched toward the flock on our bellies so as to not disturb the birds from their respite. We halted once we were within a comfortable distance, and eventually the bird untucked its bill. The cheeks were a smooth buffy orange and bordered by a clean white throat and supercilium. The supercilium was broken into two neat lines that were divided by an orange wedge reaching down and anterior from the rear of the crown. The crown was a dark orange with many black flecks. The forehead was white and the lores were a darker, more intense orange. The breast was washed a pale buffy orange with brown stipples. The bill was relatively short and thin with a slight decurve. The base of the lower mandible was pushed noticeably more anterior than the upper mandible, giving an impression of a “notched” gape. This feature is characteristic of Little and Red-necked Stints, whereas Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers have a “flattened” gape. (Thank you, Suzanne Sullivan, for pointing out this useful field mark just three days prior, and thanks to Blair Nikula too for a recent discussion on stint ID). Finally, as the bird walked away, the legs were black and there was no sign of palmation between the base of the toes. In brief, we arrived at the identification of Little Stint by ruling out North American peeps due to the extensive orange and rufous coloration on the face and back, and Red-necked Stint was ruled out due to the clean white throat, split supercilium, and rufous-edged median coverts. We observed the bird for over an hour, from 14:55 to 16:10. High tide was at 15:20. The bird slept mostly, but stood up to preen on several occasions. The bright rufous on the head and mantle stood out like a sore thumb amongst the dark browns and grays of the nearby Semipalmated Sandpipers. Even from a distance of ~35 m, the bright coloration of the stint could be picked out easily with 10x binoculars. At times the bird was isolated from other shorebirds by up to two feet, although when other shorebirds moved around and that distance increased, the stint quickly surrounded itself again with Semipalmated Sandpipers.

Technical Information

Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Lens model
EF400mm f/5.6L USM
Focal length
400 mm
Shutter speed
1/2500 sec
Flash did not fire, auto
Original file size
2384 x 1589

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