Solitary SandpiperTringa solitaria

adult, breeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Steve Young/VIREO
juvenile
Richard Crossley/VIREO
adult, breeding
Richard Crossley/VIREO
juvenile
Jukka Jantunen/VIREO
adult, breeding
Brian E. Small/VIREO

Family

Description

Almost all of our sandpipers migrate in flocks and nest on the ground, but the Solitary Sandpiper breaks both rules. In migration, as its name implies, it is usually encountered alone, along the bank of some shady creek. If approached, it bobs nervously, then flies away with sharp whistled cries. In summer in the northern spruce bogs, rather than nesting on the wet ground, the Solitary Sandpiper lays its eggs in old songbird nests placed high in trees.

Habitat

Streamsides, wooded swamps and ponds, fresh marshes. In migration generally along shaded streams and ponds, riverbanks, narrow channels in marshes. Sometimes along the edges of open mudflats, but generally avoids tidal flats and salt marsh. Nests in muskeg region, with bogs and ponds surrounded by forest of spruce and other trees.

Feeding Diet

Insects and other small aquatic creatures. Feeds on many insects of water and shore, including beetles, dragonfly nymphs, grasshoppers; also crustaceans, spiders, worms, mollusks, occasionally small frogs.

Feeding Behavior

Mostly forages in shallow water, moving about actively, picking items from surface; also probes in water and mud. While walking in water, may pause and quiver one foot, presumably to stir up small creatures from the bottom.

Nesting

Breeding behavior not well known. In breeding season, male gives repeated call while perching on tops of trees, or while performing display flight over nesting territory. Nest: Uses nests built by songbirds such as American Robin, Rusty Blackbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Jay. Nest chosen is usually in spruce or other conifer, sometimes in deciduous tree, 4-40' above ground. Sandpipers may sometimes take over a freshly-built nest. Female may add lining material to original nest. Eggs: 4, rarely 5. Olive to buff, marked with brown. Incubation details poorly known, may be by both parents, roughly 23-24 days. Young: Development and behavior of young poorly known. Since parents are not known to feed young, apparently the chicks must jump to the ground; probably tended there by one or both parents. Age of young at first flight not known.

Eggs

4, rarely 5. Olive to buff, marked with brown. Incubation details poorly known, may be by both parents, roughly 23-24 days. Young: Development and behavior of young poorly known. Since parents are not known to feed young, apparently the chicks must jump to the ground; probably tended there by one or both parents. Age of young at first flight not known.

Young

Development and behavior of young poorly known. Since parents are not known to feed young, apparently the chicks must jump to the ground; probably tended there by one or both parents. Age of young at first flight not known.

Conservation

Population very difficult to census, because birds are so dispersed at all seasons, but no obvious decline in numbers.

Range

A long-distance migrant, wintering mostly in South America, especially around swamps and riverbanks in the Amazon Basin. Apparently migrates mostly alone and at night.

Listen

calls #3
calls #2
calls #1

Similar Species

adult, breeding

Common Sandpiper

The name "Common Sandpiper" is appropriate only in the Old World; in North America this is a rare bird, occurring in small numbers in western Alaska during migration. This is the Eurasian counterpart to our Spotted Sandpiper, with a similar teetering action as it walks along the edges of streams and ponds.

adult, breeding

Spotted Sandpiper

Most sandpipers nest only in the far north, but the little "Spotty" is common in summer over much of North America. As it walks on the shores of streams, ponds, and marshes, it bobs the rear half of its body up and down in an odd teetering motion. When startled, it skims away low over the water, with rapid bursts of shallow wingbeats and short, stiff-winged glides. Even where it is common, it is seldom seen in flocks.

adult, breeding

Baird's Sandpiper

Nesting in the high Arctic, this sandpiper is seen by birders mostly in its migrations through the Great Plains. Many other shorebirds that migrate north through the prairies in spring go south off our Atlantic Coast in fall; however, Baird's follows the plains route at both seasons, although a few spread out to either coast in fall. A long-winged, long-distance migrant, this is one of the few shorebirds that regularly stops at lakes in the high mountains.

adult, breeding

White-rumped Sandpiper

The trademark white rump patch is usually hidden by the long wings, which are a clue to this bird's long migrations. Many fly annually from Canada's Arctic islands to the southern tip of South America; some have gone even farther, to islands near the Antarctic Peninsula. In North America, White-rumped Sandpipers are seen in greatest numbers during northward migration through the Great Plains. At some stopover points, such as Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas, many thousands may be present in late spring.

adult, breeding

Stilt Sandpiper

This wader is related to our very smallest sandpipers, but it is much more stretched-out in shape, designed for feeding in deeper water. In its drab winter plumage the Stilt Sandpiper is often overlooked, passed off as either a yellowlegs or a dowitcher, depending on what it is doing. Standing or walking, it looks rather like a yellowlegs; feeding, it acts like a dowitcher, probing the mud with a sewing-machine motion.

adult, breeding

Pectoral Sandpiper

This is one of the "grasspipers," more likely to be seen in grassy marshes or wet fields than on wide-open mudflats. Its spring migration is mostly through the Great Plains, with smaller numbers east to the Atlantic; the species is found coast to coast in fall, but is still scarcer in the west. The name "Pectoral" refers to the inflatable air sac on the male's chest, puffed out during his bizarre hooting flight display over the Arctic tundra.

adult, breeding

Gray-tailed Tattler

A close relative of our Wandering Tattler, replacing it as a breeding bird in Siberia; the two may winter together sometimes in coastal Australia. The Gray-tailed Tattler is not so tied to rocky shorelines as its American counterpart, being found more often on mudflats. It occurs as a rare but regular migrant in western Alaska.

adult, breeding

Wandering Tattler

Along rocky shorelines on the west coast, this gray sandpiper clambers actively over the boulders. If an observer approaches too closely, the bird gives a loud "tattling" call and flies away, spooking the other shorebirds on the rocks. The name "Wandering" refers to the wide distribution of this species: in winter it is found along Pacific coastlines from North America to Australia, including innumerable islands in the southwest Pacific. In summer, for a change of pace, it goes to high mountains in Alaska and northwestern Canada.

adult, breeding

Lesser Yellowlegs

At first glance, the two species of yellowlegs look identical except for size, as if they were put on earth only to confuse birdwatchers. With better acquaintance, they turn out to have different personalities. The Lesser is often at smaller ponds, often present in larger flocks, and often seems rather tame. Perhaps a more delicate bird (as it appears to be), it does not winter as far north as the Greater Yellowlegs.

adult, breeding

Terek Sandpiper

An odd shorebird from Eurasia with short legs and a long, upcurved bill. On a mudflat with other sandpipers, the Terek often draws attention by its animated behavior, running about more actively than the other birds. It occurs in small numbers in western Alaska during migration, occasionally in flocks.

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