Winter 2013

06/07/2013

What are the Shorebirds Doing?

As you cross the causeway into Omaha when the tide is low you may think that the exposed sand flats look rather boring. However, for the shorebirds which make the Omaha spit their home the sand flats look like a McDonald's restaurant. While the dotterels peck at crabs and sand-hoppers, the oystercatchers use their long orange beaks to probe deep in the mud for worms and shellfish. You can also often see the elegant black and white pied stilts wading in the shallow water with their long red legs which they trail behind them when they fly. While most of the local flock of about 400 godwits have departed on their long migration to Alaska to breed, there are still about 40 young birds wintering over and feeding on the Whangateau flats.

Some of the other birds seen feeding on the estuary are white-faced herons and kingfishers which perch on the power lines and swoop down to snatch crabs on the wing. Shags can also be seen at low tide, standing on the sand banks with their wings out-stretched drying in the sun. Recently there were royal spoonbills on the sand island over towards Whangateau. These strange and spectacular white feathered birds have a huge black spoon shaped bill which they sweep from side to side filtering food from the water.

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