Return to Main Page   Dakota Birder Blog    

Upland Sandpiper

Bartramia longicauda

Length: 12 inches Wingspan: 18 - 20 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Small round head, short bill, buffy/brown streaked upperparts, white underparts.

Upland Sandpiper - Bartramia longicandaA true sandpiper, but almost never found on mudflats with its cousins, the Upland Sandpiper is a bird of grasslands and prairies.  It is most often seen as it perches on fence posts or stumps.  Upland Sandpiper males can also often be seen (and heard) during their courtship flights, in which they circle high overhead, singing a loud, carrying song.  Adults perform loud distraction displays upon too close of an approach to an active nest.


Prefers native grasslands and prairies.  In parts of the United States where such habitat is now rare (such as in the Northeast), Upland Sandpipers are most often found around airports and other such areas of with large expanses of managed grasses.


Primarily insects.  Also earthworms, and occasionally, seeds and waste grain.


Often perches on fence posts and other elevated perches above the grassland, but when feeding, typically walks through the grassland, picking up food items from the ground or from the surface of the vegetation.


Late May through July.  The nest of an Upland Sandpiper is a scrape in the ground lined with grasses, palced on the ground in areas of thick grassland.  the female usually lays 4 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, the young leave the nest within hours and feed themselves, but the parents tend to them and protect them. The yong fledge after about one month.


Flight song is a strange bubbling whistle, slowly rising then falling. They also have a rattling call.

1Click here to hear the song of an Upland Sandpiper, recorded in Perkins County, South Dakota

2Click here to hear the call of an Upland Sandpiper, recorded in Perkins County, South Dakota


 Summers in the Plains states, the Midwest, and locally in the northeastern U.S., as well as the plains of central and western Canada and up into Alaska.  A long-distance migrant, Upland Sandpipers winter in South America.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Upland Sandpiper sightings

Similar Species:

As a "shorebird" that inhabits grasslands, their habitat alone makes them rather unique and unlikely to be confused with other shorebird species. However, they could potentially be confused with the following:

South Dakota "Hotspot"

Less common in the eastern part of the state, but in much of South Dakota they're a species that's relatively simple to find in the summer months. Given their habit of often perching on fence posts, they're a species that's more observable than most. Fort Pierre National Grasslands is one place where they're very easily observed.

Conservation Status:

After being seriously depleted due to hunting in the 19th century, Upland Sandpipers have recovered locally, but are still not as common as they probably once were.  Noted declines have occurred in the Eastern United States in the last few decades. After European settlement, widespread clear-cutting of forests created an artificially high amount of open land in the East, likely giving a short-term boost in suitable habitat for Upland Sandpipers. Now, eastern populations may be in decline because that open habitat is disappearing as forests recover.  Despite declines locally, overall populations are still not seriously threatened, and may be increasing. The IUCN lists the Upland Sandpiper as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) BirdWeb - Upland Sandpiper

2) WhatBird - Upland Sandpiper

3) Audubon Guide - Upland Sandpiper

Photo Information:

July 16th, 2004 -- 25 miles southwest of Pierre -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Upland Sandpiper photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Andrew Spencer, XC104331. Accessible at

2Paul Marvin, XC299641. Accessible at


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Upland Sandpiper - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer breeding resident in the western half of the state.  More local and much more uncommon in the eastern half.

Additional Upland Sandpiper Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Upland Sandpiper 1 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 2 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 3 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 4 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 5 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 6 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 7 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 8 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 9 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 10 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 11 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 12 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 13 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 14 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 15 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 16 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 17 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 18 - Bartramia longicaudaUpland Sandpiper 19 - Bartramia longicauda