Spotted sandpipers (Actitis macularius) in mid winter make you wonder how they got their name.
They spend the winter from the southern edge of the U.S. to Central and South America, but no matter where you find them they are spotless at this time of year.
Their behavior provides a clue to their identity as they forage alone and bob their tails. The photo above, taken in the Yucatan in February, shows a blur for the bird’s tail because it’s moving.
Next month they’ll start to molt into breeding plumage before they travel north. By the time they reach western Pennsylvania in April they’ll look like this:
During this weekend’s Great Backyard Bird Count, they’ll be “unSpotted” Sandpipers.
(photo of (un)spotted sandpiper from Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original. Photo of a spotted Spotted sandpiper by Robert Greene, Jr.)