White-rumped Sandpiper

Calidris fuscicollis
A White-rumped Sandpiper specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Although this small (7-8 inches) shorebird undertakes a remarkable long-distance migration each year, the White-rumped Sandpiper is somewhat less remarkable in terms of physical appearance. Dull gray-brown above with a medium-length bill, dark legs, and white eye-stripe, the White-rumped Sandpiper is easily confused with many similar-looking species of sandpiper that occur in its range and on migration. With the help of a high-powered field scope, this species may be identified by its long wings and conspicuous white rump patch. In winter, this species’ plumage becomes less distinct, adding another layer of confusion to its identification. Male and female White-rumped Sandpipers are similar at all seasons. The White-rumped Sandpiper breeds primarily in northern Alaska and on islands in arctic Canada. This species undertakes a fast-paced migration in which it traverses the entire continent of North America in the space of a month. The White-rumped Sandpiper winters in central and southern South America. In the breeding season, the White-rumped Sandpiper inhabits relatively wet, well-vegetated stretches of tundra. On migration, this species may be found for short periods of time in various kinds of wetlands. During the winter, this species inhabits a variety of freshwater and saltwater habitats including lagoons, estuaries, and marshes, although it tends to avoid fast-moving water and sandy beaches. The White-rumped Sandpiper mainly eats small invertebrates such as insects and mollusks. Due to its remote breeding habitat, most birdwatchers never see the White-rumped Sandpiper during the summer. Similarly, many North American birdwatchers never travel far enough south to see this species during the winter. Most sightings in temperate regions of North America take place during the spring and fall, when this species may be seen in small numbers near water. The White-rumped Sandpiper is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Rare migrant in May and from August through October. Found along barrier beaches and mud flats. Spring birds are more rufescent above than autumn ones. The sexes are alike.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC48612 Calidris fuscicollis (White-rumped Sandpiper)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC51891 Calidris fuscicollis (White-rumped Sandpiper)