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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Shorebirds

Willet, Tringa semipalmata

Willet wading in shallow water and another flying in the background

Willets are shorebirds that breed in coastal and inland marshes in North America, primarily along the Atlantic coast, Gulf Coast, and in the interior regions of the western United States and Canada from April to August.

Willets are commonly found in salt marshes, estuaries, and mudflats, where crustaceans, mollusks, and insects are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage in intertidal zones, mudflats, and shallow waters for small crabs, marine worms, snails, and insect larvae. They may also feed on small fish and plant material.

Willets have long, straight bills adapted for probing soft substrates and capturing prey. Their strong legs and partially webbed feet allow them to wade in water and walk on muddy surfaces efficiently.

Courtship involves males performing aerial displays, where they fly in circles while calling loudly to attract females. Ground displays include bowing, wing spreading, and rapid running around the female.

Nests are built by females in shallow depressions on the ground, lined with grasses, leaves, and other vegetation. Nests are typically located in dense marsh vegetation or grassy areas near water.

Egg laying occurs from April to June, with females laying 3-5 eggs. Incubation lasts about 22-26 days and is shared by both parents. Upon hatching, chicks are precocial and leave the nest shortly after to follow the parents. Initial diets include small invertebrates provided by both parents.

Chicks learn to forage under parental supervision, initially relying on parents to find food. As they grow, they begin to forage independently but remain vulnerable to predation and harsh weather conditions.

Fledging occurs at about 30-35 days, with continued guidance from both parents. Juvenile diets gradually expand to include a wider range of invertebrates and small fish as they develop foraging skills.

Migration begins in late summer to early autumn, with birds traveling along coastal and inland flyways to wintering regions in Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America.

Wintering habitats include coastal beaches, mangroves, and mudflats. Foraging continues in intertidal zones, with diets consisting mainly of small crabs, marine worms, and mollusks.

Willets leave their wintering grounds in late February to early March, returning north to breeding territories.