Bird of the Month – May 2020

Little Stint Calidris minuta
We guess most members will consign the spring of 2020 as a time of missed opportunities. It has been a time of making the best of the birding allowed from our immediate surroundings. For those living far from wetland and shorelines, wader migration during this spring will only be something we imagined. Seeing Curlew Sandpiper and Godwits dressed in their breeding finery would not have been enjoyed and sorely missed by many of us. Yet, with some easing of self isolation during May, a few of us would have been able to venture to wetlands to bear witness to this particular wonder of spring.

One of the most fascinating waders to grace our region, both during the winter and more so in times of migration, is the diminutive Little Stint. At just 12/14 cm this bird is tiny, not that this would be your first impression. You realise just how small this long distance migrant is, when a wagtail or other small bird wanders close to the bird you are watching. Given scale you appreciate just how tiny a bird the stint is.

Little Stint breed in the high tundra of the Artic, wintering as far south as South Africa. Some have been recorded as a vagrant in Australia, which is simply amazing. The good news for birders missing this migrating wader is, they also winter with us in coastal and wetland sites. So, while missing seeing Little Stint this spring may cause some regret, autumn and winter holds the promise of their return.

Little Stint facts. The bird is considered of least concern in terms of its conservation status. It breeds in the high tundra in Europe and Asia. Wintering in some Mediterranean countries, the main winter area for European birds is Africa. The Asian population is presumed to winter in India. The scientific name is Calidris minutia, Calidris was a general term used by Aristotle to describe some grey coloured waterside birds, kind of an ancient equivalent to our ‘little brown jobs’.

NoteThe views expressed in articles are those of the authors, and are not necessarily those of the Society.

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