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This month's quiz subject was an obvious shorebird and, obvious to most, a small sandpiper. The strong patterning including fringing on the upperparts and the long, thinnish bill both point away from the plovers and the legs are simply too short for our quiz bird to be one of the larger sandpipers (e.g., curlews, godwits, Willet, or yellowlegs). The dark legs rule out Spotted and Common sandpipers and most of the medium-sized sandpipers (e.g., dowitchers; tattlers; turnstones; Red Knot; and Purple, Rock, Pectoral, Sharp-tailed, Stilt, and Solitary sandpipers) leaving us with Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Dunlin, and the peeps/stints. Looking closely at the bird's feet, we can rule out Sanderling, as that species lacks a hind toe (the only sandpiper in the world with that feature) among other features that eliminate that little surf-runner. Our bird's bill is just too short and not curved enough for either Curlew Sand or Dunlin, so it's to the peeps we go (the bill also rules out Terek Sandpiper, in case you still had that one in the mix).
Once among the small Calidris sandpipers, there are a couple of dichotomies that we could use to winnow our set of choices. However, it might be best at this point to attempt age determination and the season. The combination of having some upper scapulars with rufous edges and worn greater coverts suggests that the picture was taken in spring. A mid- to late-summer seasonality is probably ruled out by the fact that those greater coverts aren't terribly worn and that the apparently newly-grown alternate plumage (scapulars and back feathers) are in great shape.
Knowing the time and the plumage, we can probably rule out all but the drabbest of first-cycle Red-necked and Little stints and we could continue down the methodical road of peep ID (overall plumage color – gray vs. brown, wingtip projection, bill shape, posture, etc.), but we can also short-stop the ID process by noting two very key features: the pale color at the base of the mandible and the fine streaking on the flank and undertail covert feathers. Both of these features send us arrow-straight to the correct answer and rule out all the other options! This White-rumped Sandpiper was practicing its roadrunner imitation at Haxtun, Phillips Co., CO, on 26 May 2006.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the June Bird Photo Quiz—White-rumped Sandpiper:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.