Least Sandpiper

Calidris minutilla
A Least Sandpiper specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

One of the smallest sandpipers in the Americas, the Least Sandpiper may be identified by its small size (5-6 ½ inches), short wings, and yellow legs. In summer, this species is mottled brown above with a white belly, streaked breast and throat, and pale white eye-stripes. In winter, the Least Sandpiper becomes darker and duller than in summer. Males and females are similar to one another in all seasons. The Least Sandpiper has one of the southernmost breeding ranges of all North American sandpipers. This species breeds from the high arctic south to Nova Scotia and British Columbia and from Alaska east to Newfoundland. The Least Sandpiper is also one of the most widespread winter sandpipers in North America, wintering along the coast from Oregon and New Jersey south to Central America and the West Indies. This species also winters in northern South America. Least Sandpipers breed in a variety of freshwater habitats, particularly in bogs. During the winter, this species may be found in freshwater and saltwater along beaches, lagoons, estuaries, and other wet habitats near bodies of water. Least Sandpipers feed primarily on small mud-dwelling invertebrates. Least Sandpipers are most easily observed along the water’s edge, probing the mud for food with their bills. They may also be seen in small flocks flying above the surf, frequently mingling with other species of waders. This species is most active during the day.

DC Information

Fairly common migrant late April to early June and late July to early November. An uncommon winter visitor, November to June. Found in marshes, at the edge of ponds, and along estuaries. Spring birds are more rufescent (reddish) than autumn ones. The sexes are alike.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC56428 Calidris minutilla (Least Sandpiper)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC60064 Calidris minutilla (Least Sandpiper)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC53850 Calidris minutilla (Least Sandpiper)