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Spotted Sandpiper Spotted Sandpiper

Identification and Pictures

(Actitis macularius)Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted sandpipers are a small shorebird about 7 to 8 inches.  The birds are constantly bobbing the tail, with their bodies leaning forward.  They are olive brown above and white with round black spots below.  They have a straight beak which is yellow or orange with a black tip in breeding plumage.  There is a dusky patch on the breast near the shoulders, enclosing a white wedge between it, and the wing.  There is a white line over the eye.  In the fall, and winter they lose most of the spotting.  They fly with the wings held stiffly downward using shallow wing strokes.  These are solitary birds not often seen in flocks.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.

     Spotted Sandpiper

Young birds resemble the adults but have dark edges on the back feathers.

Spotted Sandpiper Sound

They call out a clear peet or pee-weet-weet.  Sound

Preferred Habitat

This is the most widespread of all the sandpipers.  The summer range is from Alaska through Canada, and most of the U.S.  In winter they migrate to far south U.S., and into South America.  They may be found along stream sides, ponds, and lake shores.  During migration, and in winter they can be seen anywhere there is water from streambeds to seashores.

Breeding and Nesting

Unlike most birds the female arrives in the breeding grounds before the male.  She establishes, and defends the territory while trying to attract a mate.  The nest is made of stems, and grass concealed under vegetation near rivers, streams, or lakes.  The female lays 3 to 5 buff spotted eggs withsandpiper egg blotches.  When she lays eggs they may be from several different males.  After laying the eggs she will leave them for the male to incubate while she searches for another mate.  The eggs will hatch in around 20 days and the male will take care of young birds for about 4 weeks.  The female may breed with up to 4 males, each raising a clutch of eggs.  She may raise the last one herself.

Food 

Sandpipers feed on a variety of insects, and invertebrates normally feeding along the shoreline, but may also grab insects from the air.


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