Western SandpiperCalidris mauri

adult, breeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Richard Crossley/VIREO
juvenile
Jukka Jantunen/VIREO
adult, breeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adults, nonbreeding
Patricio Robles Gil/VIREO

Family

Description

A close relative of the Semipalmated Sandpiper. Western Sandpipers nest mostly in Alaska and migrate mostly along the Pacific Coast, but many reach the Atlantic Coast in fall and remain through the winter. Of the various dull gray sandpipers to be found commonly on coastal beaches in winter, Western is the smallest.

Habitat

Shores, beaches, mudflats; in summer, dry tundra. Migrants and wintering birds are typically on open shorelines, mudflats, sandy beaches, tidal estuaries. In winter mostly along coast, few remaining inland then. Breeds on tundra slopes, choosing dry sites with low shrub layer and with marshes nearby for feeding.

Feeding Diet

Includes insects, crustaceans, mollusks, marine worms. On breeding grounds, eats mostly flies and beetles, also other insects, spiders, small crustaceans. Diet in migration and winter varies. On coast eats many amphipods and other crustaceans, small mollusks, marine worms, insects. Inland migrants eat mostly insects, some seeds.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by walking in shallow water or on mud and probing in mud with bill; also feeds by searching visually and picking up items from surface of shore.

Nesting

Male sings while performing display flight over breeding territory. On ground, unmated male approaches female in hunched posture, tail raised over back; repeatedly gives trilled call. Nest site is on ground, usually under low shrub or grass clump. Nest is shallow depression with sparse lining of sedges, leaves, lichens. Male makes several nest scrapes, female chooses one. Eggs: 4, sometimes 3, perhaps rarely 5. Whitish to brown, with darker brown spots. Incubation is by both parents, about 21 days. At first, female incubates from late afternoon to mid-morning, male only during mid-day, but male's proportion increases later. Female sometimes departs before eggs hatch. Young: Downy young leave nest a few hours after hatching. Sometimes both parents care for the chicks, but often the female deserts them after a few days, leaving the male to care for the young. Young feed themselves. Age at first flight about 17-21 days.

Eggs

4, sometimes 3, perhaps rarely 5. Whitish to brown, with darker brown spots. Incubation is by both parents, about 21 days. At first, female incubates from late afternoon to mid-morning, male only during mid-day, but male's proportion increases later. Female sometimes departs before eggs hatch. Young: Downy young leave nest a few hours after hatching. Sometimes both parents care for the chicks, but often the female deserts them after a few days, leaving the male to care for the young. Young feed themselves. Age at first flight about 17-21 days.

Young

Downy young leave nest a few hours after hatching. Sometimes both parents care for the chicks, but often the female deserts them after a few days, leaving the male to care for the young. Young feed themselves. Age at first flight about 17-21 days.

Conservation

Still abundant, but vulnerable because high percentage of population may stop during migration at a few key points, such as Copper River Delta in Alaska. Declining numbers of migrants have been documented in some areas.

Range

From breeding grounds in Alaska and eastern Siberia, migrates southeast to wintering areas on both coasts of North and South America. Apparently migrates in series of short to moderate flights, without long overwater flights of some shorebirds.

Listen

alarm calls
more calls
calls & flight
song & calls

Similar Species

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 male, breeding

Curlew Sandpiper

A few Curlew Sandpipers turn up on the Atlantic Coast every year, rewarding birders who scan through the shorebird flocks. Elsewhere in North America, this Eurasian wader is only a rare visitor. It has nested at Point Barrow, Alaska, but in most years it is completely absent there. Most of those seen as migrants are adults in bright rusty-red breeding plumage; young birds and adults in winter plumage are more likely to be overlooked.

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

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

Least Sandpiper

The smallest member of the sandpiper family, no bigger than a sparrow. This is the sandpiper most likely to be seen on small bodies of water inland. On sandy riverbanks, lake shores, and edges of sewage treatment ponds, little flocks of Least Sandpipers fly up to circle the area and then settle again, giving thin, reedy cries as they go. On the outer coast, outnumbered by bigger shorebirds, they seek out sheltered places on the muddy edges of the marsh.

adult, breeding Pribilof Islands

Rock Sandpiper

Very similar to the Purple Sandpiper, replacing it in the west. Spends the winter on coastal rocks, sharing this habitat with other "rockpipers" like Black Turnstone and Surfbird. Rock Sandpiper is more effectively camouflaged than these birds, and is often very hard to spot against the gray boulders. Although it nests in places on the mainland of Alaska, it seems most numerous on Bering Sea islands such as the Pribilofs and the Aleutians.

adult, breeding

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Small and plain in appearance, this sandpiper is important in terms of sheer numbers. It often gathers by the thousands at stopover points during migration. Semipalmated Sandpipers winter mostly in South America, and studies have shown that they may make a non-stop flight of nearly 2000 miles from New England or eastern Canada to the South American coast. The name "Semipalmated" refers to slight webbing between the toes, visible only at extremely close range.

adult, breeding

Red-necked Stint

This rusty-headed little sandpiper is mostly an Asian bird, but every summer, small numbers cross the Bering Strait to nest in western Alaska. Rarely, a few individuals will migrate south in the Americas rather than taking their usual route south to the Australasian region. Such strays have been seen on both coasts and at points in between. Most Rufous-necked Stints found south of Alaska have been adults migrating south in July, still in distinctive breeding plumage.

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