A little-studied migratory shorebird of the Scolopacidae family, the solitary sandpiper (Tringa solitaria) has a fairly distinctive appearance and a number of unusual, distinguishing behaviours. Of the world’s 85 sandpiper species, the solitary sandpiper is one of only two species which nests in trees rather than on the ground (2) (3). The solitary sandpiper is also aptly named, as, in contrast with other migratory sandpipers, it does not form flocks. In fact, this species’ specific name, solitaria, refers to its unusual solitary behaviour during migration (3).
The solitary sandpiper is a small, slender, long-legged species (3) (4), with dark olive-brown or grey-brown upperparts which are scattered with fine, whitish-buff to cinnamon-white spots (3) (5). It has a distinctive narrow white eye-ring and a grey, streaked head (3) (4) (6), while the white throat and belly contrast with the dark underwings, particularly during flight. The bill of the solitary sandpiper is greyish with a black tip, and the legs are dull green (3) (4). There is usually a dusky or speckled streak from the base of the bill to the eye, with a whitish streak above the first (5). The outer tail feathers of the solitary sandpiper are dark and have distinctive black bars, while the rest of the tail is dark (2) (4).
The male and female solitary sandpiper are very similar in appearance, although the female is generally slightly larger than the male. The juvenile is usually warmer brown on the upperparts than the adult, with large, pale spots (3).
Two subspecies of the solitary sandpiper are recognised: Tringa solitaria solitaria has dark olive upperparts with buff-white spots, while Tringa solitaria cinnamomea is larger, with grey-olive plumage and cinnamon-white spots. Tringa solitaria solitaria usually has a more well-defined streak between the eye and the bill, while Tringa solitaria cinnamomea typically lacks these streaks, being more finely spotted and speckled instead (3) (5).
The call of the solitary sandpiper is a shrill, high pitched, whistled ‘weet, weet’ (2).
- Chevalier solitaire.
- Length: 19 - 23 cm (2)
- 31 - 65 g (2)