[Tweeters] Ediz Hook: Seed-eating Sanderlings

Bob and Barb Boekelheide bboek at olympus.net
Mon Jan 16 13:59:08 PST 2012

Thanks, Carol, for the note about the Sanderlings at Ediz Hook.
Pretty crazy, isn't it?

Someone has been putting out millet at Ediz Hook since at least the
winter of 2005-06. Not only Sanderlings, but Dunlin and turnstones
also regularly eat the millet. Among the House Sparrows and Starlings
we see Savannah and crowned sparrows and once a Snow Bunting. I
still don't know who puts out the seed.

I believe certain shorebirds may eat more vegetable matter than we
give them credit. There are quite a few accounts of shorebirds
eating plant material (buds, seeds, etc.), particularly when they
first arrive at nesting grounds in the Arctic, perhaps because it's
too early for the big push of insect larvae.

Turnstones, particularly Ruddys, are perhaps the most generalist of
the group, which you'd probably guess looking at their bills. But
down here on the wintering grounds we may have a skewed impression of
shorebirds and their bills, since on the nesting grounds so many of
them mostly eat tiny little insect larvae that they pick up one at a
time on the tundra. Clearly the long bill of a Dunlin looks adapted
for probing in the mud, not for pecking midge larvae from around the
grasses and sedges, but that's what they do in the Arctic. So
picking up little seeds is not too different than picking up little
larvae, and my guess is if the reward is good they'll eat it when
presented with the opportunity. Mmmmm, good!

Bob Boekelheide

From: Carol Riddell <cariddellwa at gmail.com>
Date: January 16, 2012 10:53:39 AM PST
To: Tweeters <Tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Subject: [Tweeters] Ediz Hook: Seed-eating Sanderlings

I was birding along the Strait from Port Townsend to Salt Creek on
Saturday. At Ediz Hook, near the Coast Guard station, someone had put
down an inexpensive mix of bird seed, probably to attract sparrows.
The only sparrows feeding on it were House Sparrows. We were
fascinated to see a small flock (12-14) Sanderlings also eating the
seed. It demonstrates a generalist approach to feeding that one does
not necessarily think of with shorebirds, whose bills are designed
mostly to specialize in niches for their food. Perhaps Dennis Paulson
would be kind enough to comment on this and offer any further
information. Thanks.

Carol Riddell

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