Whimbrel Threat Display

Whimbrel Threat DisplayWhimbrel Threat Display – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

In 2009 on the day after my birthday I took myself to Honeymoon Island State Park in Pinellas County, Florida as a birthday present and I am very happy that I did. February is a wonderful time in Florida because the temps aren’t too high and the humidity is lower than normal.

Honeymoon Island has the Osprey Trail that I typically took first thing in the morning but on that morning I decided to walk all the way to the north tip of the beach instead. I saw dolphins gliding past me in the waves, gulls, terns and pelicans flew over my head and after about 1/4 of a mile I had the beach all to myself most of the time. I photographed the birds I found along the way including an Osprey with its catch and a Yellow-crowned Night Heron displaying. Ghost Crabs scurried across the sand in front of me and tiny shorebirds hurried to see what they could find where the waves lapped up against the shore.

What tickled me most about that day was spotting about 25 Whimbrels foraging in seaweed mats that had been pushed onto the edge of the shore. Prior to that morning I had only seen Whimbrels one at a time so to find that many in one place was a joy. There were some beach walkers near the Whimbrels and I held my breath as they walked past the birds hoping they wouldn’t flush them and when they didn’t I was able to sand crawl closer to the foraging shorebirds. They were look for tiny crabs in the seaweed and paying little attention to me so I was able to get a wonderful series of images of the Whimbrels.

This Whimbrel wasn’t reacting to my presence when it exhibited this threat display instead it was reacting to the presence of two other Whimbrels that are outside of the frame. This bird chased off the other two Whimbrels then continued foraging. It was wonderful to observe and photograph their behavior.

I took hundreds of Whimbrel images that morning and when I left the beach I thought about them all the way home.

I have never seen another flock of Whimbrels that large again and probably never will but I will always have the images and the memories of the great birthday gift I gave to myself when I headed to Honeymoon Island that day.

Life is good.


Whimbrels do migrate through Utah on their way to their breeding grounds and one day I hope to photograph them here too.


  1. Utahbooklover April 21, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    What a great image and interesting post. Thanks!

  2. Wally April 19, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Isn’t their plumage special! You really captured it splendidly!

    I grew up fishing all around the Honeymoon Island area and my girlfriend (now wife of 47 years) and I had many “fishing dates” among those sandbars.


  3. Elephant's Child April 19, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    What an amazing birthday to hug to yourself. Stunning images, wonderful memories.

  4. Sarah Mayhew April 19, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Love the behavioral shots!

  5. Patty Chadwick April 19, 2015 at 8:22 am

    Wonderful image, wonderful story…made me very homesick! February was my favorite month in Florida, too…and I miss it! The flowers, soft breezes, perfect temperature, the smells, the fish and, of course, the birds….

  6. Dave Sparks April 19, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Terrific image. The threat display really highlights the intricate markings of the Whimbrel. I’ve never seen a flock of them, always 1 or just a few dispersed. Feb. is also good in Florida because the biting bugs have not yet arrived. It’s my favorite time to visit central/south Florida.

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