While many North Americans know this small (7-8 inches) sandpiper as a plain, gray bird of the winter shoreline, the Sanderling has a summer plumage that is much more striking. During the breeding season, the Sanderling is rusty-red speckled with brown above with a bold white eye-stripe, black bill, black legs, and black wing edges. In winter, this species sheds its summer colors and becomes gray above with a white breast and throat. Male and female Sanderlings are similar in summer and winter plumages. The Sanderling breeds across the high arctic and winters on every continent except Antarctica. In North America, this species breeds primarily on islands in far northern Canada. Sanderlings that breed in Canada migrate south in winter, when they may be found along the coasts of the Americas from central Canada to southern South America. In the Old World, this species breeds in northern Siberia, wintering as far south as the Mediterranean Sea, West Africa, South Asia, Australasia, and Oceania. In summer, Sanderlings breed on relatively dry, open tundra. During the winter, this species primarily inhabits shorelines of sandy beaches. The diet of the Sanderling is comprised mostly of small aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans and mollusks, although insects may also be eaten when available. Due to its remote breeding habitat, most birdwatchers never see Sanderlings during the summer. In winter, this species may be observed in groups probing the sand for food with their bills and running to avoid incoming waves. This species is primarily active during the day.
Abundant migrant; many spend the winter here also, occurring from late July to early June. Usually seen in large flocks on ocean beaches. The sexes are alike in plumage: autumn birds are pure white below and grayish above; spring birds have the throat and breast pale rufous (brownish-red), spotted with blackish and are darker above.
Collected By: John Dowell
Locality: Gravelly Run, VA
Sex: Female adult
Catalog ID: 105852