The diet of the short-billed dowitcher is variable depending on the season, with fly larvae and pupae mostly being eaten during the breeding season, as well as snails, beetles, insects and occasionally seeds (2) (3) (4). During the winter, aquatic worms, molluscs and crustaceans are taken (2) (4). When foraging around aquatic habitats, the short-billed dowitcher rapidly probes its bill into the substrate to obtain its prey (2) (3) (4).
The nesting period of the short-billed dowitcher usually runs between late May and July (2), and the male and female form a monogamous pair (2) which lasts for one breeding season (4). The nest is well hidden on the ground in long grass (2) and is usually bowl shaped, with an outer layer of thick vegetation lined with dried grass, leaves, ptarmigan feathers (Lagopus species) and twigs (3) (4). On average, a short-billed dowitcher clutch contains four eggs (2) (3), although clutches of between three and five eggs have been reported (2).
The eggs of the short-billed dowitcher are light green-brown or olive-green, and have brown spots across the surface, which are more concentrated at the largest end of the egg (3) (4). The eggs are incubated by both sexes (2) (3) for between 19 and 21 days (2) and the young are able to walk immediately and can swim as soon as their down has dried (3). When all of the eggs have hatched, the young leave the nest and are mostly cared for by the male (2) (3), although they are able to feed themselves by gleaning insects from vegetation (4). After between 16 and 17 days, the young are able to fly short distances. The short-billed dowitcher produces one brood per breeding season (4).
The female short-billed dowitcher leaves the breeding grounds to begin its southward migration from early July and the male and juveniles usually leave in late July. Between mid-August and early October, individuals begin to arrive in their southern wintering grounds, with northward migration starting again in early March (2). During migration, short-billed dowitchers form large flocks which may contain hundreds of individuals (4).