11 February 2017
Green & Wood Sandpiper
The above photo shows two very similar Tringa waders. Note that the one on the right is slightly smaller, with a shorter bill and longer legs - this is a Wood Sandpiper [Tringa glareola] - a very common non-breeding summer visitor to Southern Africa. The bird on the left is a national rarity in Southern Africa. This is a Green Sandpiper [Tringa ochropes]. As far as the regional rarities are concerned they are among the more common ones, but still regarded as a rarity.
In general the spotting on the back in the case of the Green Sandpiper (GSP) is much smaller than for Wood Sandpiper (WSP) but be careful: the spotting becomes much more obvious towards the end of our summer as the birds begin to moult into breeding plumage before returning to their Northern breeding grounds. Compare the photos taken in December (2 below) when this bird was first found at Olifants North Game Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park to the ones taken in January at the same location and presumed to be of the same individual (top left and at the bottom)
WSP always show a very clear white supercilium which normally extends well beyond the eye but this can be confusing since the individual shown here (below) does not show this! If the bird does show a supercilium clearly extending beyond the eye it easily excludes GSP which also shows a clear, more prominent white eyering.
The above WSP also shows a "dirty" brownish wash to the upper breast and neck, in its non-breeding plumage - a feature I have never seen in GSP - they always seem cleaner, with dark streaks on a clear white background. Note that WSP also "cleans up" nicely in their breeding plumage.
One feature which really helps to clinch the ID is the underwing. GSP has blackish underwings with barred underwing coverts (below, left) while WSP have much paler underwings (below, right) - this is a consistent feature for both species.
With a little practise the difference in gizz becomes apparent and they can fairly easily be distinguished in the field. Most WSP's have very clear superciliums and they are always boldly spotted on the back while GSP's are much less spotted on their backs when they arrive here. The purpose of this write-up is to point out that the spots on the back is a good feature at the opposing ends of the spectrum but be cautious when using this feature towards the end of summer as the breeding plumage GSP's also feature prominent white spots on the wings and mantle as seen below. Also remeber that sometimes the supercilium can also appear short in WSP.
- Nikkor AF-S 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR with included matched 1.25x teleconverter
- Nikkor AF-S 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR
- Birds in flight - Etosha January 2014
- Birds of Zululand 2013
- Canon EOS 1Dx vs Nikon D4: The Great Showdown Part II
- Canon EOS 1Dx vs Nikon D4: The Great Showdown
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- Nikon D800's "Swift" performance
- Portfolio in African Birdlife