Western Sandpipers, especially those in breeding plumage, are considered the most colorful of tiny North American “peeps”.
They are also one of the most abundant shorebirds in North America.
Breeding Western Sandpipers are scalloped brown, black, white and gold on their backs and wings and are white underneath and have short dark legs. In flight, they have a black stripe down the center of the tail.
Nonbreeding adults are hard to distinguish from Semipalmated Sandpipers in their winter plumage. They are both pale gray above and white below. Western Sandpipers have few streaking on their breast.
Juveniles are more similar to nonbreeding adults but their backs are more scaly-looking.
- Calidris mauri
- Length: 5.5 – 6.7 in (14 – 17 cm)
- Weight: 0.8 – 1.2 oz (22 – 35 g)
- Wingspan: 13.8 – 14.6 in (35 – 37 cm)
Western Sandpipers breed mainly in Alaska and western Canada and migrate to the Pacific and Atlantic US coast, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
Habitat and Diet
You can find Western Sandpipers in dry tundra with plenty of sedges and grasses during the nesting season. During migration, they congregate in flocks of thousands around beaches and marshes.
Western Sandpipers hunt in very shallow water. With females having longer bills, they tend to forage by probing more. Males often hunt visually and resort to pecking to capture their prey. They eat insects, spiders, crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms.
Western Sandpiper call:
Nests of Western Sandpipers are depressions on the ground concealed under some vegetation and lined with soft material. The female will lay two to four eggs and both parents will share in the responsibility of incubating the eggs for three weeks.
Chicks hatch and are able to feed themselves. They take about three weeks to learn how to fly.
Female Western Sandpipers are larger and have longer bills than males.