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Spotted Sandpiper

Common Name: Spotted Sandpiper.

Scientific Name: Actitis Macularius.

What to look for?  Medium-sized shorebird. Bold dark spots on a bright white breast. This dapper bird is the Spotted Sandpiper.  Breeding adults have dark spots on the belly and an orangish bill. They have relatively long, yellow legs. The body of a Spotted Sandpiper has a rounded breast and then tapers to a longish tail. The back is dark brown. In winter, a Spotted Sandpiper's breast is not spotted; it is plain white. There is a thin white stripe along the wing that can be seen only in flight. The Spotted Sandpiper has a feint white eyebrow that highlights dark brown eyeliner on either side of its dark brown eye.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? A Spotted Sandpiper will be found foraging the shallow shoreline around Carillon Stonegate Pond.  May through end of summer is best time of year. And try the pond at Stonegate West – especially around last year’s reeds.

How big are they? Spotted Sandpipers are medium-sized sandpipers. They average approximately six (6) inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately fifteen (15) inches. They weigh in at around 1 1/3 ounces. Females are larger than males by approximately 25%.

What are their flight patterns? The Spotted Sandpiper flies with stuttering wingbeats. This distinctive flight style has quick, snappy wingbeats that are interspersed with glides. When startled, it skims away low over the water. The Spotted Sandpiper’s white wing-stripe is displayed while in flight.

How else do they behave? Spotted Sandpipers are often solitary. They walk with a distinctive teeter, constantly bobbing their tails up and down. Spotted Sandpipers are active foragers and walk in a meandering path before suddenly darting at prey. They are one of the first bird species observed and described in which the roles of the males and females are reversed. Spotted sandpipers are territorial during the breeding season.

What’s for dinner? Spotted Sandpipers are carnivores. They will dine on small invertebrates such as midges, mayflies, flies (particularly their aquatic larvae), grasshoppers, beetles, worms, snails, and small crustaceans. They also eat small fish. Spotted Sandpipers are active foragers, probing into the sand or mud with their bills.

Where do they take up residence? The Spotted Sandpipers are found throughout North and Central America. Their breeding range extends from the northern Arctic to the southern United States. Their wintering grounds range from the southern United States down to southern regions of South America. Spotted Sandpipers are shorebirds so will reside anywhere near water. In the United States, Spotted Sandpipers are commonly seen near freshwater - along stream-banks, rivers, ponds, lakes, and beaches, as well as near the sea coast.

When and where do they breed and nest? Spotted Sandpipers breed northern Canada to the near southern area of the U.S. They nest under thicker vegetation near the edge of a body of water. Spotted Sandpipers breed between May and August. Spotted Sandpipers are polyandrous - females may mate with upwards of four (4) mates each year. A female may have as many as five (5) broods annually. Each brood will have three (3) to five (5) eggs. The incubation period is three weeks. Within the first day, they are walking, eating, and stretching their wings. Chicks are brought up mostly by the male. At three (3) weeks, chicks can completely lift themselves off the ground and fly a significant distance. Spotted Sandpipers begin breeding at 1 year of age. Females establish a breeding territory about 4 days before males begin arriving.

Where do they migrate? Spotted Sandpipers are generally short-distance migrants. Most Spotted Sandpipers will winter in the southern United States and along our Pacific Coast; others may go as far as southern parts of South America.

What is their conservation status? Spotted Sandpipers are classified as Least Concern. They are fully protected in the United States and Canada under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Spotted Sandpiper is the most widespread breeding sandpiper in North America, but populations declined by almost 51% between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a breeding population of 600,000.

Do they make any interesting sounds? The call of a Spotted Sandpiper is a loud, ringing ‘peet-weet’! When the bird is excited or startled, this call may be uttered in a longer series of paired notes (‘weet-weet-weet-weet’). Here is a link to the sounds of the Spotted Sandpiper.

Interesting Facts About the Spotted Sandpiper:

  • The Spotted Sandpiper is the most widespread breeding sandpiper in North America.

  • The female Spotted Sandpiper is the one who establishes and defends the territory. She arrives at the breeding grounds earlier than the male. In other species of migratory birds, where the male establishes the territory, he arrives earlier.

  • The male takes the primary role in parental care, incubating the eggs and taking care of the young.

  • The oldest recorded Spotted Sandpiper was approximately 12 years old.

  • Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 600,000.

For more information on the Spotted Sandpiper and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society, University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web and Bird Watchers Digest.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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