It seems that in this age of hyper-connectivity, false information travels more 
easily than true. Whereas the good-news story of a Baird's Sandpiper at 
Nickerson Beach, Nassau County, Long Island, propagated quickly and decisively, 
the uncomfortable awareness that the bird in question was actually a Sanderling 
is spreading too slowly.

Conflicting descriptions aside, photos in the various checklists show an adult 
Calidris sandpiper with a robust bill, boldly patterned back feathers with 
extensive rufous color in the interior of each feather, warm color on the face 
and bib, and boldly pale-edged coverts and tertials. All of these are 
characteristic of Sanderlings, which furthermore also have long wings that 
extend beyond the tertials when folded.

Note that this is early July and that juveniles of Arctic-breeding shorebirds 
will not reach us for several weeks. Thus, a Baird's Sandpiper at this date 
would be an adult (very rare), not a scaly-backed juvenile.

Lone shorebirds are difficult to identify, and the grassy habitat chosen by 
this individual was admittedly atypical for a Sanderling, so an error is 
understandable. But it has been two days, so I would have thought that the 
gears of the social media mill would have mulled this grist by now.

Distinguishing rare birds requires thorough familiarity with the common 
species. An identification article in the most recent Birding magazine 
emphasizes this point but unfortunately features a photo that confuses two of 
the most common species (yes, one is Sanderling)! I've pointed this out to 
about a dozen active birders, none of whom was aware of the gaffe. Is it only 
good news that goes viral nowadays?

Shai Mitra
Bay Shore


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