Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper, Vancouver Island, BC

The Spotted Sandpiper is around 17 cm long. During breeding, it has dark bars on brown above and heavy round, black spots below, the bill is pink at the base and its legs are pinky-orange. It turns pale gray-brown with white underparts in the fall and winter.

It has brownish patches on the sides of the breast and a white eyebrow. The bill turns dark; the legs turn a dull greenish-yellow or flesh color. The juveniles look like adults but have dark edges to the feathers on the back and wings.

The female spotted sandpiper is more aggressive than the male and practices polyandry and mates with more than one male. She may lay up to 5 clutches with various males. Each male incubates the eggs for her while she seeks yet another mate. The males take care of all the parental tasks and the female defends the territories of all of her males.

The spotted sandpiper has a wide range of habitats; it is common in freshwater habitats and can be found at lakes, rivers, and ponds in suburban areas as well as the Alaskan tundra. It can be found singly or in pairs walking near freshwater throughout North and South America. It forms small flocks during migration and winters in Central and South America.

Spotted Sand Piper, Vancouver Island
Spotted Sand Piper, Vancouver Island, photo by Bud Logan

The spotted sandpiper bobs its tail constantly and even when standing teeters obsessively. The teetering will stop when the bird is alarmed, courting, or aggressive. When the bird is nervous, the teetering is faster. Only its wingtips flutter when it flies, and it will usually go only a few yards and then stop. The head is bowed below the body when it flies.

The female spotted sandpiper will choose a temperate region for breeding; the longer season this allows her to raise more than one brood. The male incubates the eggs for 3 weeks. When the chicks hatch, they have feathers and are ready to find their own food, but the father usually stays with them for the first few weeks and teaches them where to find food. The chicks will teeter soon after they hatch. They are able to fly within 20 days.

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