Bird Finder: Shorebirds on the Move — Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Tim_Lenz3Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Calidris subruficollis

by Andy Griswold
With shorebird migration on the doorstep, it is a good idea to freshen-up on our ID skills for this marvelous family of endearing species.

One species in particular has always been a love of mine, the delicate Buff-breasted Sandpiper, unique in being the only North American shorebird to use a lek for courtship.

What it looks like: This petite 8.25-inch migrant is distinctly long-winged. Note its white underwing, pale buffy breast and face, yellow legs, and scaly patterned back. This distinctive, dove-like shorebird is relatively easy to identify and is not likely to be mistaken for any of its relatives.

Where to find it: Typically, Buff-breasted Sandpiper migrates through the middle of our country, but with regularity can be found both to the east and west of this path. Look for this species mainly in dry, short-grass habitats. This bird in the past has been an annual occurrence at Hammonasset Beach State Park and at our Milford Point Coastal Center, where one or two are reported each year. Sod farms are ideal.

How to find it: Late July and into the early fall is when to look for this species. Concentrate on grassy areas that may offer some damp spots after rains.

What if it isn’t there: Typically one can find the other “grasspipers” in the same habitat including Upland, Pectoral, and Baird’s Sandpipers. American Golden-Plover is also a possibility.

Conservation status: By the 1920s this species had declined from numbers in the millions to near extinction. Although thought to have recovered somewhat, this species is likely again on the decline.

This week’s Bird Finder was written by Andy Griswold, director of Connecticut Audubon Society’s EcoTravel program.

Photo by Tim Lenz, Carolinabirds.org. 

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