Least SandpiperCalidris minutilla

adult, breeding
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Richard Crossley/VIREO
Johann Schumacher/VIREO
Claude Nadeau/VIREO
Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper



6" (15 cm). The smallest of American shorebirds. Brownish above, with yellowish or greenish legs, short thin bill, and streaked breast. Grayer in winter plumage. Bill shorter, thinner, and more pointed than in Semipalmated or Western sandpipers.


A clear treep; when feeding, a soft chuckle.


song & calls #1


Grassy pools, bogs, and marshes with open areas; also flooded fields and mudflats.


Breeds from Alaska east across northern Canada to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Winters along coasts from northern California and North Carolina southward; also in Southwest and Southeast.


Our smallest "peep," the Least Sandpiper is a common and relatively tame bird on inland mudflats and wet grassy areas. With their yellowish legs, they look like miniature Pectoral Sandpipers; like Pectorals, they prefer grassy areas to the more open flats frequented by most shorebirds. As might be expected of an inland bird it feeds heavily on insects, but when it feeds along the coast its diet is like that of the other "peeps"--the Western, Semipalmated, White-rumped, and Baird's sandpipers--and includes crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms.


4 pinkish-buff eggs, spotted with brown, in a nest lined with moss and grass placed on a dry hummock in a depression on boggy tundra.

Similar Species

adult, worn breeding plumage


8" (20 cm). A starling-sized shorebird with conspicuous white wing stripe. Summer adults have rufous head and breast, white belly.

adult, breeding


8 1/2" (22 cm). A starling-sized shorebird. Bill fairly long, with distinct droop at tip. Breeding adults have reddish back, whitish underparts, with black patch in center of belly.

adult, breeding

Baird's Sandpiper

7 1/2" (19 cm). A slender "peep" with a short straight bill; larger than Least, Semipalmated, and Western sandpipers; about the same size as White-rumped.

adult, breeding

White-rumped Sandpiper

7 1/2" (19 cm). A slender "peep" (small sandpiper) with a short straight bill and a white rump. About the same size as Baird's Sandpiper; larger than Least, Semipalmated, and Western sandpipers.

adult, breeding

Western Sandpiper

6 1/2" (17 cm). Similar to Semipalmated Sandpiper and not always easy to distinguish, but bill tends to be longer, with more evident droop at tip.

adult, breeding

Pectoral Sandpiper

9" (23 cm). A chunky, somewhat short-legged wader with heavily streaked breast sharply delineated from unmarked white belly. Legs yellow. In flight, wings dark with no prominent stripe.

adult, breeding Pribilof Islands

Rock Sandpiper

8-9" (20-23 cm). A small, rock-dwelling sandpiper. Winter birds plain slate-gray on head, breast, and upperparts; dark bill has pale base.

adult, breeding

Semipalmated Sandpiper

5 1/2-6 3/4" (14-17 cm). Slightly larger than a Least Sandpiper. In all plumages, grayer above with less-streaked breast than other "peeps." Feet black.

adult, breeding

Red-necked Stint

6 1/2" (17 cm). A small sandpiper. In breeding plumage, face, neck, and upper breast rufous, with white chin spot, and rest of underparts white; upperparts rufous and brown with black blotches.


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