Small (22 to 24 cm) aquatic sandpiper with fringed toes, needle-like bill, white underparts and rump. During the breeding season, larger females are more brightly plumaged than males. Breeding females possess pale blue gray forehead and crown; white supercilium borders black streak that passes from lores, through and below the eye, down sides of neck; white streak trails from back of head, down nape to upper back; throat cinnamon buff; chestnut scapulars and mantle; wings gray brown and underparts and rump white; tail pale grayish; bill black, legs grayish to black. Breeding males are smaller and generally less brightly plumaged. Nonbreeding plumage of both sexes: pale gray above and underparts and rump white (Colwell and Jehl 1994).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
In the Bozeman area, normal migration periods are from May 4 to 30, and July 7 to September 1; peak numbers were on May 15 and August 15 (Skaar 1969).
During spring, the species is widespread in the valley in lakes, ponds and flooded fields. Summer birds are restricted to marshy borders of lakes and ponds (Skaar 1969).
Small aquatic invertebrates in freshwater or hypersaline environments; also some terestrial invertebrates. On breeding grounds forages on open water and flooded meadows, less frequently in upland habitats and along beaches (Colwell and Jehl 1994).
Nests in sparse to dense vegetation of uplands, marshes, and roadside ditches. Nest is a grass-lined depression. Eggs oval to pyriform, buff with slight gloss, covered with brown spots/blotches. Brooding by male only. Modal clutch size 5 (Colwell and Jehl 1994). Nesting is in June (Davis 1961). Young chicks were in the water near Fortine from June 26 to August 13.