Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)

Breeding adult Willets are dark-brown with mottling on the back and white with some dark-brown streaking underneath. Their bills are thick and straight.

Their wings are distinct with broad white stripes on black wings visible in flight. Their tails are white with a dark brown tip. Their legs are long and bluish-gray.

Juvenile Willets are paler in comparison to adults and they hardly have any streaks on their white underparts, except on their throats.

There are two sub-species and Western Willets are lighter-colored in comparison to Eastern Willets. They also have less mottling on their upperparts and less barring on their underparts.

  • Tringa semipalmata
  • Length: 13 – 16 in (33 – 41 cm) 
  • Weight: 13.22 oz (375 g)
  • Wingspan: 24 – 31 in (61 – 79 cm)


Willets that breed in northern US states migrate to coastal Central and South America. Most stay all year along the US coasts and Central American Coast.

Habitat and Diet

You can find Willets on open beaches, marshes, mudflats, and rocky coasts. However, Western Willets move inland to freshwater prairie marshes and other wetlands for breeding.

Willets forage for food using their long bills to probe and pick small crabs, clams, worms, and other invertebrates from mudflats and saltwater marshes.

Willet Calls:


Nests of Willets depend on their location. Eastern Willets build their nests on the grass near salt marshes and dunes. Western Willets build their nests near pond edges.

Once the female decides on her preferred scrape, she will lay around four eggs that take two to three weeks to incubate.

Fun Fact:

While both parents take turns incubating their eggs, only the male adult incubates at night and stays with the young even when the female has left their territory.