Tringa semipalmata

Physical Description

  • Large, stocky shorebird with mottled brown feathers
  • Long light brown legs
  • Thick straight bill, beige to black
  • Large black and white stripes on spread wings, brown mottling on back and lighter on belly


  • From Canada to Venezuela
  • Breed in the Great Plains, migrate through the central United States


  • Feed along beaches, mudflats, saltwater marshes, and rocky shores
  • Western willets breed in freshwater compared to eastern willets


  • Aquatic beetles, spiders, fish
  • Small crabs, worms, clams, snails, and invertebrates
  • Eastern willets eat fiddler and mole crabs


  • Hawks, herring gulls, snakes, and otters prey on adult willets
  • Crows, ravens, snakes, foxes, and raccoons prey on willet eggs and chicks

Interesting Facts

  • The name willet comes from the “pill-will-willet” sound of their call
  • Although both parents incubate the eggs, only the males watch the eggs at night. The female leaves the nest almost two weeks before the male, leaving him to finish raising the chicks. 
  • Like Killdeer, willets will pretend to have a broken wing to lure predators away from their nest to protect their eggs and nest

Sources: AllAboutBirds.org; BirdsoftheWorld.org; Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo: Paula Selby

To hear a Willet’s calls, click here!

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