Most Americans associate shorebirds with southern beaches, having watched them feed along the tidal zone, running ahead of incoming waves. But the majority of these plovers and sandpipers only winter on those southern shores and begin to move north by April. Heading for Arctic breeding grounds, they stop to rest and feed along the way.
Most of these long distance travelers are best found in flooded fields or on the mudflats that line our lakes and reservoirs. Among the more common migrants are black-bellied plovers, greater and lesser yellowlegs, least sandpipers, dowitchers and semipalmated sandpipers. Golden plovers, willets and pectoral sandpipers favor marshy grasslands while phalaropes and western sandpipers feed in the shallows.
Peak shorebird migrations occur from late April through early May. After breeding and rearing their young in the perpetual light of the brief Arctic summer, these nomads are heading south again by early July. Fall migrants may be spotted in the Midwest anytime between July and November.