In a previous post, one member, offered the following postscript:

"Willet Tidbit--- The Willets that we have roaming our beaches now are all Western Willets from the northern Great Plains.  The eastern race Willets will not be back until March or April. No eastern Willets have been seen in the U.S. in mid-October.  The western race has a more burry voice, where with the easterns it is much more clear and whistled.  So technically the Willet is not a permenent resident.   "Pill-will-Willet!"

Needless to state, this somewhat brash and unsubstantiated assertion aroused my curiosity and keen interest. Subsequently, I have consulted three NA willet authorities to solicit their personal insight into this interesting hypothesis. Peter Lowther, Hector Douglas III and Cheri Gratto-Trevor co-authored the willet species profile for the exhaustive BNA series. ( Ms. Gratto-Trevor authored several BNA species profiles and is currently researching PIPL - with some of her banded birds wintering in the state) 

All three authors/biologists/researchers cannot verify and/or support the C.S. semipalmatus abandonment hypothesis. They acknowledge that the eastern subspecies does shift south along the east coast, with unknown numbers migrating off the continent. NA wintering east coast birds are joined by an unknown number of the western subspecies, but none suggest that all eastern birds abandon NA entirely. Furthermore, all assert (per the BNA profile) that individual variation within the western group makes field identification for wintering subspecies extremely problematic and differences in vocalizations, although distinct, are also extremely challenging to field observers, particularly in winter when the birds rarely emit their territorial calls. One of the author/biologists even indicated that he could not distinguish subspecies by voice in the field and only could do so after listening to simultaneous audio recordings! 

Ms. Gratto-Trevor has done extensive willet banding in the northern Great Plains and none of her birds have been recovered/resighted on the east coast. She is curious where the western cohort wintering along the east coast is originating from. 

I am very thankful for the kind and generous responses from these authorities and appreciate this degree of expertise when the birding community requires such learned assistance. It would also be quite helpful and insightful for Listserve members to substantiate their personal observations/comments with authoritative citings such as those provided by the BNA profiles. (Please note that I have not posted the personal emails [responses] of the authors because I did not seek or receive their permission to do so). 

Season's Greetings to all, Patrick Leary  Fernandina Beach         

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