Birds of the Week # 34

Willet



The Willet (Tringa semipalmata), formerly in the monotypic genus Catoptrophorus as Catoptrophorus semipalmatus, Willets are flexible in their feeding habits and hunt by walking steadily and pecking prey from the substrate, although they also probe into the mud or silt with their sensitive bill and may actively stalk larger prey in shallow water. A favored prey on the coasts are small fiddler crabs as well as mole crabs, worms, clams and other invertebrates. They have also been known to occasionally eat plant material. Willets also actively hunt more mobile prey such as fish and aquatic insects in the water and will wade up to their bellies to pursue such prey. The sensitive bill means that willets can hunt at night as well as during the day. They are territorial both on the breeding grounds and on the wintering areas but form loose breeding colonies or wintering groups. When displaying the wings are held stiffly and downcurved in flight while on the ground the display gives prominence to the distinctive pattern of the underwings. They are normally nervous birds, with the birds closer to the landward edge of a saltmarsh being the first to utter their alarm calls, in a manner reminiscent of the common redshank in Europe, although some individuals may be approachable. They often use rocks, trees or fence posts to perch on.


Great Egret



The Great Egret (Ardea alba), also known as the common egret, large egret, or (in the Old World) great white egret or great white heron. The species breeds in colonies in trees close to large lakes with reed beds or other extensive wetlands, preferably at height of 10–40 feet (3.0–12.2 m). It begins to breed at 2–3 years of age by forming monogamous pairs each season. Whether the pairing carries over to the next season is not known. The male selects the nest area, starts a nest, and then attracts a female. The nest, made of sticks and lined with plant material, could be up to 3 feet across. Up to six bluish green eggs are laid at one time. Both sexes incubate the eggs and the incubation period is 23–26 days. The young are fed by regurgitation by both parents and they are able to fly within 6–7 weeks. The great egret forages in shallow water or in drier habitats, feeding mainly on fish, frogs, small mammals, and occasionally small reptiles and insects. This species normally impales its prey with its long, sharp bill by standing still and allowing the prey to come within the striking distance of its bill, which it uses as a spear. It often waits motionless for prey, or slowly stalks its victim.


© HJ Ruiz – Avian101

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