Class, Order, and Family:
Class Aves, Order Charadriiformes, Family Scolopacidae, Subfamily Scolopacinae.
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This shorebird is a small sandpiper, 14-17 cm long, with a 26-37 cm wingspan, and about 22-35 g in weight. It has a short neck but moderately long bill and legs. Its bill and legs are black, and it has a black center on its rump and tail. The back is gray-brown with some reddish parts and the chest is lightly marked.
The Western sandpiper can be confused with the Semipalmated sandpiper, though the former does acquire its winter plumage earlier.
The breeding plumage is different, with chestnut on back, crown, and back of face. There is some short webbing between the toes but it is difficult to see. The females are slightly larger than the males and have a larger bill, but otherwise the sexes look alike.
Their call is a thin “jeet” sound.
Habitat: the Western sandpiper migrates along the Pacific Coast in huge flocks. It is estimated that as many as 6.5 million individuals pass through the Copper River Delta in Alaska over a few weeks each spring. Their migration takes them from the San Francisco Bay to Western Alaska. Their breeding habitat is coastal sedge-dwarf tundra. They migrate along mudflats, beaches, shores, lakes, ponds, and flooded fields.
Summer Range: The Western sandpiper breeds in western and northern Alaska and also in eastern Siberia.
Winter Range: These sandpipers winter along the Pacific Coast of North, Central, and South America as far south as Peru. They also winter along the Atlantic Coast from southern New Jersey to northern South America.
Food: The sandpiper forages for food by sight on mudflats during migration and the non-breeding season, probing the earth for insects, small crustaceans and mollusks. Foraging occurs on tundra and wet meadows during the breeding season.
Breeding Behaviour: They nest on the ground under vegetation. Both parents incubate and care for young. Sometimes the female deserts her mate and brood before the offspring fledge.
Nest Type and Egg Description: Clutch size is usually four eggs, but ranges from three to five. At hatching, the chicks are active and covered with down.
Conservation Status: The Western sandpiper is common. It has a large global population estimated to be 3.5 million individuals. The IUCN considers the western sandpiper to be a species of least concern.
Information on this page compiled by Colleen Sutton.
BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/.
Ehrlich, Paul R. 1988. The Birder’s Handbook. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Godfrey, Earl W. 1986. Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Hinterland Who’s Who. http://www.hww.ca
Leslie, Scott. 2006.
Wetland Birds of North America. Key Porter Books, Toronto. NatureServe. InfoNatura. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura/
Birds, mammals, and amphibians of Latin America. 2004. Version 4.1 .
Arlington, Virginia (USA): NatureServe. Available:
http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura. (Accessed: May 8, 2007 ).