Overview of Common European Waders

They have an elegant appearance and impress with their long beak, with which they prefer to search for food on the shore.
Waders belong to the group of shorebirds and include a variety of species and genera. In this article, we would like to give you an overview on a few of them who seem to look very similar at a first glance.

  • Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) vs Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus)
  • Red Knot (Calidris canutus) vs Dunlin (Calidris alpina) vs Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
  • Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) vs Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
  • Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus) vs Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus) vs Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)

More to follow, so stay tuned for further information!


Common Snipe vs Jack Snipe

Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

  • Medium-sized
  • Long bill
  • Pale crown-stripe
  • White & unbarred belly

Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus)

  • Small-sized
  • 2/3 size of Common Snipe
  • Short bill
  • Dark crown stripe
  • Bold golden stripes along the back
  • “Bobbing” technique used mainly when feeding

Red Knot vs Dunlin vs Curlew Sandpiper

Winter

Winter

Summer

Summer

Red Knot (Calidris canutus)

  • Medium-sized
  • Short bill
  • Slightly larger than Dunlin
  • In winter their plumage is grey overall with grey/green legs and white belly, in summer they moult into a “brick red” appearance across the belly & head, showing mottled pattern on wings.
Winter

Winter

Summer

Summer

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

  • Small-sized (comparable to Starling)
  • Bill length varies depending on sub-species though subtle difference
  • In winter plumage birds showing a clean grey back & wings, white belly with black legs, in summer they show a black belly, streaking from breast to head & depending on sub-species the back & wings vary from a dull brown red to bright rufous colouration extending onto the head.
Winter

Winter

Summer

Summer

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)

  • Medium-sized
  • Slightly larger than Dunlin
  • Legs are black though quite long
  • Longer and thinner bill, looking down-curved (resembles a small Curlew hence name)
  • Like Dunlin & Knot, Curlew Sandpipers in winter show a similar grey appearance in winter with a grey back & wings, white belly though the Curlew Sandpiper shows a faint supercilium (eye stripe), in summer the theme continues with brick red appearance and mottled wings & back. In juveniles they appear “peachy or buff” in colour with a very prominent supercilium.


Black-tailed Godwit vs Bar-tailed Godwit

Winter

Winter

Summer

Summer

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

  • Large-sized
  • Straight, long bill
  • In winter the adults show a plain, dull-grey colour across the entire bird with a pink bill & black tip to the end. In summer these birds moult into a red/orange colour across their head, breast (though varies between both sub-species) and a barred/mottled belly & wings. Juveniles show a white belly, orange/buff breast, neck & head with wings & back that appears spotted.
  • Long black legs
  • As the name suggests they have a “black tail”
Winter

Winter

Summer

Summer

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)

  • Large-sized, same as Black-tailed Godwit
  • Long but slightly up-turned bill
  • In winter the adults show a clear & obvious supercilium along with a streaked back & wings, the bill is also pink with a black tip. In summer the belly, chest and head moults into a dark, rufous colour which is un-barred along with mottled wings & back.
  • The legs are long (shorter than Black-tailed Godwit) and black
  • As the names suggests they have a “barred tail”

Common Redshank vs Spotted Redshank vs Common Greenshank

Common Redshank (Tringa tetanus)

  • Medium-sized
  • Medium bill but with rounded end instead of sharp
  • In winter they show an overall grey/brown appearance with spots under the belly & and bright red legs which stand out, in summer they’re most heavily marked with throughout with black markings.
Winter

Winter

Summer

Summer

Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)

  • Medium-sized, more slender than a Redshank
  • Fine, long bill
  • In winter these birds show a grey back, mostly clean white belly and prominent supercilium that runs in front & behind the eye with bright red legs. In summer these birds are unmistakeable with their jet-black plumage and legs plus the contrast with the reddish bill. The juveniles appear spotted hence the name.

Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)

  • Medium-sized, though slightly larger than Redshank
  • Long bill, slightly up turned at the bill
  • In winter these birds show a clean white belly, streaking around the breast leading up to the neck & over the head with a green/grey back & wings.

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