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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a suborder of birds of the order Charadriiformes. The body length varies from 14 to 62 cm. The legs are usually long. The bases of the toes are sometimes connected by a membrane; the phalaropes have broad lobes along the sides of the toes. The Limicolae run well; many can swim. The wings are long and narrow, more rarely broad and rounded. Their flight is rapid. The tail is short, usually containing 12 rectrices; the snipes (Capella) have as many as 26. For the purpose of obtaining food, the length and shape of the bill varies from short and needlelike or massive to very long and straight or curved up or down. In the wrybill (Anarhynchus frontalis) the bill is curved to the side, while in the spoon-billed sandpiper (Eurynorhyncus pygmeus) the tip of the bill is broad and spatulate. The feathers are dense, usually dull, and are molted twice a year. Summer coloration differs from that of winter. The males and females usually have similar coloration.

There are two families: Rostratulidae (two species) and Charadriidae (160 species). The Limicolae are distributed on all continents except Antarctica. In the USSR there are 75 species (of 30 genera), which are distributed from the arctic to the southern borders. Most Limicolae are migratory, often making long flights from the polar regions of Siberia to Australia and New Zealand or from Alaska to southern Argentina. They in-habit open spaces—the shores of seas, rivers, and lakes, the tundra, steppes, and high-altitude plateaus. Some species live in forests or thickets.

The Limicolae feed primarily on small land and aquatic in-vertebrates, gathering them from the surface of the soil or water or extracting them from the soft soil with their long bills. Some species acquire their food by foraging through vegetation washed ashore by the sea or beneath small rocks; they also feed on berries and seeds.

The Limicolae nest on the ground, laying a clutch of two to four pear-shaped speckled eggs in a small hollow, which frequently has no lining. Some species nest in trees, using the abandoned nests of other birds. Most Limicolae are monogamous. However, some do not form pairs, and the female alone cares for the offspring. In the phalaropes and painted snipes, the male incubates the eggs and cares for the young. The young are born covered with a thick down; they leave the nest soon after birth and are able to feed themselves. Only oyster catchers bring food to their young. Many Limicolae are game birds.


Kozlova, E. V. Rzhankoobraznye: Podotriad kuliki. Moscow-Leningrad, 1961-62. (Fauna SSSR. Ptitsy, vol. 2, fasc. 1, parts 2-3.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.