For today’s Pic du Jour I’m adding a 16-photo selection to Piran Café’s small —but growing!— collection of bird photography with these willets snapped along a shore on Bogue Banks, North Carolina. Their thick black bills, longer than their heads, and long thin gray legs distinguish them from their closest relatives, as does the piercing call they unleash when threats are perceived.
About 13-16in (33-41cm) in length with a wingspan of 27in (70cm), willets are the most common large shorebirds on US coasts. A member of the sandpiper family, tringa semipalmata commonly feeds along beaches and mudflats. They nest on the ground, often in groups, but during the day are somewhat solitary – you’re more likely to see them foraging along a shoreline alone.
These pictured here are eastern willets which breed along coastal areas from Nova Scotia to Mexico and the Caribbean and winter from the Carolinas southward.
Once popular as food, they nearly disappeared north of Virginia in the early part of the 20th century until the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which banned market hunting, helped with their comeback. The biggest threat they now face is their increasingly vanishing habitat.