The Sanderling is a small, light-colored sandpiper with a black bill and black legs, speckled with gold coloring on the back. The male and female look alike.
When in their breeding plumage, they have a Rufus head and neck and a Rufus wash that extends onto their back. When in non-breeding plumage, the adult is white underneath and very pale gray above while the juveniles are white underneath with a dark and light mottled top.
This is the only sandpiper that lacks the hind toe, this allows them to run on the beach very fast, if you have ever tried to capture a photo of them as they run on the beach, you will be well aware of how fast they are. The Sanderling is quite comic when it runs down to the water’s edge with an outgoing wave and races back up the beach with the next incoming wave. A real joy to watch.
They feed by probing and leave bands of holes along a beach where they have stuck their beaks into the sand probing for food and their beaks get covered with a layer of sand. Sanderlings dine on a variety of aquatic invertebrates and here on Pacific Northwest Coast, they eat a variety of mollusks.
Sanderlings nest on dry, rocky tundra in the high Arctic usually close to water. The nest is ground-based, in a shallow scrape up on a high spot and lined with vegetation. The female generally lays a clutch of 4 eggs. The eggs will hatch in about 24 to 31 days and the young will fledge at about 17 days. Males always stay with the young, the female may or may not.
I love watching them leap into the air chasing flying insects, it’s almost like a comedic opera.