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willet (Tringa semipalmata)
Photo © David W. Brewer

Features and Behaviors

The blue-gray legs and stout bill are distinctive characters of the willet. It has a basic gray coloration with some dark marks on the breast and belly feathers in breeding plumage. The wings show large black and white areas in flight. It is about 15-16 inches long (tail tip to bill tip in preserved specimen).

Spring migrants begin arriving in April. Willets breed along the Atlantic coastline of the United States and Canada as well as in portions of the western United States and west-central Canada. Southbound migrants begin moving through the state in late June. The species overwinters from the coastal southern United States to South America. Mudflats, flooded fields, beaches, sandbars and short, grassy areas associated with water are the favored habitats. It eats small invertebrates.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Scolopacidae

Illinois Status: common, native