Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)

Least Sandpipers are the smallest shorebirds. Breeding adults are rusty-brown with scaled patterns on their heads and upperparts and some brown streaking on their throats and breasts. Their bellies and undertails are white and they have yellow legs.

Non-breeding adult Least Sandpipers have a paler coloring, somewhat gray or light brown. Juveniles are brighter colored on their backs and their scaled patterns are more obvious.

  • Calidris minutilla
  • Length:  5.1 – 5.9 in (13 – 15 cm)
  • Weight: 0.7 – 1.1 oz (19 – 30 g)
  • Wingspan: 10.6 – 11.0 in (27 – 28 cm)


Least Sandpipers breed in Canada and the Great Plains before migrating to the US coast, southern US states Central and northern North America.

Habitat and Diet

You can find Least Sandpipers in the tundra and boreal forests during their breeding season. In the winter, they inhabit lagoons, mangrove forests, mudflats, salt marshes, and edges of lakes, ponds, and rivers. 

Least Sandpipers mostly probe and pick out their food from mudflats and beaches in winter and they forage in the tundra, eating flies, beetles, and dragonflies in summer.

Least Sandpiper Calls:


Nests of Least Sandpipers are made by males on patches of grass on damp ground. The female then lays three or four eggs which take about twenty days to incubate.

Females incubate at night, while males take the rest of the day. The female leaves the brood first and the males stay until the young fledge. 

Fun Fact:

When probing in the mud with their bills, Least Sandpipers use the surface tension of the water to bring their prey quickly from their bills to their mouths.