White-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)
|French:||Bécasseau de Bonaparte|
|Size||Length: 15 - 18 cm (2)|
|Weight||40 - 60 g (2)|
- The white patch on its uppertail, for which it is named, distinguishes the white-rumped sandpiper from the very similar-looking Baird’s sandpiper.
- The white-rumped sandpiper performs one of the longest animal migrations in the western hemisphere.
- The white-rumped sandpiper breeds in the Canadian Arctic, and spends the winter months in the southernmost countries of South America.
- The white-rumped sandpiper has been recorded flying at speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour.
The white-rumped sandpiper is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).
The white-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) has mixed brown-grey shoulder and back feathers, a pale grey-white breast streaked with brown, and black legs. It has white underparts, and the white patch on its uppertail, for which it is named, distinguishes it from the very similar-looking Baird’s sandpiper. The top of the head is brown, with greyish-white stripes present above each eye. This species has long wings which extend beyond the tail when the bird is on the ground. In winter, shoulder and back plumage is greyer than during breeding the season (2) (3). The bill is short and dark, and curves slightly downwards (2) (4).
During breeding, the white-rumped sandpiper is found in northern Alaska, east across northern Canada to the Northwestern Territories (2) (3) (4). Its wintering range extends from the very southern tip of South America, east of the Andes to southern Bolivia, Paraguay and southern Brazil (2) (3).
On its northern migration, the white-rumped sandpiper is thought to pass through interior North America, from the Rockies in the west, to Mississippi and Ohio in the east (2).
Vagrant white-rumped sandpipers are regularly seen in Western Europe (2) (3). Individuals have been spotted in New Zealand (2).
During breeding, the white-rumped sandpiper nests on the ground, in marshy, well-vegetated tundra (2) (3) (4). During migration and winter, this species is found in a variety of wetland habitats, including sea beaches, riverbanks, fields and marshes (2).
The white-rumped sandpiper is a migratory bird, and performs one of the longest animal migrations in the western hemisphere (2) (3). It typically travels from its principal breeding ground in the Canadian Arctic to the southern-most countries of South America (2) (3). This migration is undertaken in stages of up to 4000 kilometres (2) (4). It depends on feeding heavily during migration stopovers in order to build up enough body fat to survive these long flights, which can last up to 60 hours (2).
The white-rumped sandpiper feeds mainly on invertebrate prey, such as insects, molluscs and worms, but is also known to feed on plant material. It feeds by probing with its bill into vegetation, mudflats, or shallow water, depending on its location (2) (3). It has been observed making several quick probes with its bill, before running a short distance and repeating this action (2). It has also been seen to snatch food from the surface of mud or water if it is available (2) (3). The white-rumped sandpiper may defend feeding territories, but will forage in small groups (2).
The white-rumped sandpiper is swift when flying, and walks or runs instead of hopping when on the ground. It flies in small groups, and has been recorded reaching speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour (2).
Male white-rumped sandpipers vigorously defend breeding territories while females are laying eggs, but abandon them soon afterwards. It is a polygynous species, and it is thought that the quality of the male’s breeding territory may attract females to breed. Male white-rumped sandpipers perform short, aerial courtship displays to the females. These involve hovering around 10 to 25 metres in the air while calling out a distinctive song involving ‘rattling’ and ‘pig-like’ sounds. Breeding males extend their throat during aerial displays. Throughout the breeding season, males have larger throats than females and, consequently, this is one of the only times when it is possible to distinguish between the sexes (2).
Female white-rumped sandpipers construct their nests without the assistance of males, and the nests are typically only just wide enough to fit four eggs inside. The nests are often generously lined with vegetation, which is thought to fall in naturally rather than being placed there intentionally by the female. White-rumped sandpiper eggs are oval, usually between 26 and 31 millimetres in length and green in colour with reddish-brown spots and blotches. Incubation and care of the chicks is also undertaken solely by the female. White-rumped sandpiper chicks are able to fledge from 16 to 17 days old, and are extremely independent as soon as they have left the nest (2).
Loss of suitable habitat on its migration route could pose a threat to the white-rumped sandpiper. This may prove significant if it is not able to build up fat reserves to survive migration. Wetlands in the Great Plains are unable to maintain water levels as a result of irrigation for agriculture, which may lead to dehydration in migrating birds (2).
The white-rumped sandpiper is no longer significantly threatened by shooting and trapping in Canada and the US (2).
The white-rumped sandpiper is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and is listed as a species of Greatest Conservation Need in Alaska (5).
Find out more about the white-rumped sandpiper:
Birdlife International – White-rumped sandpiper:
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology – White-rumped sandpiper:
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- Incubation: the act of incubating eggs; that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
- Invertebrates: animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
- Molluscs: a diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following: a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
- Polygynous: a mating system in which males have more than one female partner.
- Tundra: treeless, grassy plains characteristic of Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. They are very cold and have little rainfall.
- Vagrant: an individual found outside the normal range of the species.
IUCN Red List (December, 2013)
The Birds of North America Online – White-rumped sandpiper (December 2013)
- Mobile Reference (2008) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of North American Birds: An Essential Guide to the Common Birds of North America. Mobile Reference
- Parkin, D. and Knox, A. (2010) The Status of Birds in Britain and Ireland. A&C Black Publishers Ltd, London
- Walton, K., Gotthardt, T. and Fields, T. (2013) Alaska Species Ranking System Summary Report - White-rumped Sandpiper. University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage