A highly migratory species (2) (5) (7), the sharp-tailed sandpiper leaves its Siberian breeding grounds between July and September (2), and travels south along the Pacific coast of Asia to Australia and New Zealand (2) (6). The majority of the sharp-tailed sandpiper population migrates to Australia, particularly the south-eastern region, and this species usually arrives in the country between August and November, leaving again between mid-February and early March. The northern migration to its breeding grounds is rather drawn out, with the sharp-tailed sandpiper completing the journey through a series of short flights (2).
The sharp-tailed sandpiper is a gregarious species, forming large flocks consisting of hundreds to thousands of individuals (2), and in China it has been recorded mixing freely with other wading birds (3). Large flocks often fragment into scattered groups while feeding (2).
Often feeding among vegetation in drier margins of its habitat, such as at the water’s edge (2), the sharp-tailed sandpiper generally forages by sight, opportunistically pecking at prey items when it sees them. However, this species also finds food by using its bill to probe into the ground with rapid, shallow movements (2) (5). The sharp-tailed sandpiper’s diet is highly variable, and includes insects and other invertebrates, such as bivalves, snails, and crustaceans. It is also known to eat seeds (2).
The sharp-tailed sandpiper is a polygynous species, with the male mating with more than one female in a breeding season (2) (8) (9). Although little is known about the breeding habits of this species (5), the male sharp-tailed sandpiper has been recorded performing a flight display as part of its courtship behaviour (2) (5). During this display, the male produces a characteristic and distinctive dry, crackling warble (2).
Egg laying in the sharp-tailed sandpiper occurs in early June. This species nests on the ground (5), with the eggs being laid in a well-hidden, shallow depression filled with leaves and grass. The female sharp-tailed sandpiper usually lays four eggs, or sometimes three (2), which are a relatively uniform brownish-olive colour and well camouflaged within the tundra habitat (9). Once the eggs have been laid, the male abandons the female, and the female is left to incubate the eggs and care for the young alone. Each female only produces one brood per breeding season (2).
There is little information on the lifespan of the sharp-tailed sandpiper, but the oldest ringed bird was known to be at least five years and nine months old (2).