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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

All dressed up

The feathers of many sandpipers display beautiful russet-colored tones in breeding plumage.

Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) 

In Western Sandpipers, rufous or chestnut-colored feathers are especially visible on their crown, ear coverts (behind the eyes), and scapulars ("shoulders").

Other field marks for Western Sandpipers include overall small size (~14-17 cm long), black legs, a relatively long bill (slightly decurved, with a thick base), gray or black chevrons (triangular markings) along the sides of the breast and flanks.

Western Sandpipers winter along the Pacific Coast (primarily from California to Peru) and breed in northern Alaska.  (There's also a small breeding population in eastern Siberia.)

I've been wondering about the scientific name, Calidris mauri.  Western Sandpipers were apparently named after Ernesto Mauri, a well known Italian botanist associated with the botanical gardens in Rome.  Mauri was a friend of Bonaparte — in this case, Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte, Prince of Canino and Musignano.  Charles Bonaparte moved to the United States in 1822 and is considered to be "the father of systematic ornithology in America."  He was the son of Lucien, Napoleon Bonaparte's younger brother. 

Just as Western Sandpipers are long-distance migrants, their name reveals a long-distance connection between America and Italy!

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