Bird Database


(Tringa semipalmata)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Wetland loss, Climate change

Conservation Actions

Mitigate the effects of sea level rise, Minimize disturbanceto shorebrids


(Tringa semipalmata)

In New Hampshire this large shorebird is only found along the coast, where it nests in saltmarshes and forages on mudflats and shorelines. They can be quite conspicuous during the breeding season due to their loud calls, which include a whistled rendition of their name often described as “pill-will-willet.” Their bold black-and-white wing pattern is obvious in flight but completely hidden when the bird is on the ground.

The Willets that nest in coastal habitats in eastern North America are very different from those in the west, which might even be a different species. Western Willets nest in prairie wetlands, but still migrate to coastal areas in winter, including both the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. At the latter they may co-occur with eastern birds, and there are also scattered records of western birds as far north as New Hampshire in the fall. Eastern Willets winter both along the coasts of the southern United States and south through the Caribbean to as far as Brazil. Small numbers also nest in the Caribbean, which is unusual for shorebirds.

Like many shorebirds, Willets were heavily hunted prior to protections in the early 1900s. At the same time, heavy human alteration of both coastal and prairie habitats only hastened their decline. They may have been locally extirpated as early as the 1700s, and by 1890 the breeding site north of the Carolinas was in Nova Scotia. Willets finally began to reappear in New Hampshire in the 1960 as populations to the north and south rebounded and birds were able to fill in previously un-occupied areas of suitable habitat. Today the Willet can be found in most significant patches of salt marsh along the New Hampshire coast but does not occur in similar habitat around Great Bay.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count