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Sanderling

Calidris alba

Sanderlings are brownish-gray in spring. Their plumage lightens to grayish-white in winter. (Alicia Pimental)
Sanderlings are brownish-gray in spring. Their plumage lightens to grayish-white in winter. (Alicia Pimental)

The sanderling is a small, pale sandpiper with black legs and a straight black bill. It visits the Chesapeake Bay’s beaches and tidal flats from autumn through spring.

Appearance:

  • Small, stout body
  • Plumage is brownish-gray in spring and grayish-white in winter
  • White belly
  • Broad, white stripe bordered by black on the wings
  • Straight black bill
  • Black legs
  • Grows 7-8 inches with a wingspan of 14 inches

Habitat:

  • Lives on mud flats and sandy beaches
  • Small flocks dart along the water’s edge, quickly running away from incoming waves

Range:

  • Visits the Chesapeake Bay region in autumn, winter and spring
  • Most often seen in the lower portion of the Bay

Feeding:

  • Eats small, beach-dwelling animals such as bristle worms, amphipods, mollusks and crustaceans
  • Feeds at the water’s edge by probing the sand with its bill

Field Guide: Sanderling (Calidris alba) from Chesapeake Bay Program on Vimeo.

Predators:

  • Few predators outside of its breeding grounds

Flight:

  • Flies in flocks
  • White wing stripe is visible during flight
  • Quickly flies away if disturbed

Voice:

  • Usually silent, but may make a soft wick-wick sound

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Does not nest and breed in the Bay region
  • Breeds on islands along the rocky coast of the high Arctic tundra
  • Once their chicks hatch, sanderlings migrate south through the Chesapeake Bay region for the winter
  • Can live for 13 years

Other Facts:

  • Sanderlings are one of the most widespread wintering shorebirds in the world. They can be found from Massachusetts to the tip of South America.
  • The only sandpiper that lacks a hind toe. This allows sanderlings to be strong runners.

Sources and Additional Information:


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