Willet Fly or Willet Stay
As Loyd Dalton and I arrived at the parking spot on the Bolivar Flats last year, I pointed out the Willet standing on the pole marking the parking lot. He stood still long enough for a quick photo.
Willets are large, stocky shorebirds with long legs and thick, straight bills considerably longer than the head. Their wings are broader and rounder than those of many shorebirds and the tail is short and squared off at the base.
Willets are gray or brown birds that, when flying, display a striking white and black stripe along each wing. In summer, Willets are mottled gray, brown, and black; in winter they are a more consistent plain gray. The legs are bluish gray. Willets are often seen alone. They walk deliberately, pausing to probe for crabs, worms and other prey in sand and mudflats, or to pick at insects and mollusks. When startled, they react with a piercing call, often opening their wings and running rather than taking flight.
As year round residents of Texas, Willets are commonly observed feeding on mud or sand flats in bayous, bays and estuaries. On the Texas coast in winter, the Willet may be observed feeding on beaches, walking along the water’s edge, sometimes wading up to its belly in the surf. The Willet walks along with a head bobbing motion, probing in the sediment for small crustaceans and insects. When disturbed, it rises with a loud distinctive call that typically alarms all other birds nearby.
Widespread and common along the Gulf of Mexico coast year round, the Willet is the only the sandpiper known to breed with any frequency or abundance in Texas.
It flew off shortly after I took this photo.
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