Sanderling is a common sight on U.S. coastlines in the winter, moving up and
down sandy beaches in advance and retreat of waves (see photo to the right). They strongly prefer
sandy beaches in the winter, and their pale plumage often matches the pale sand
on which they forage. Individual birds often return to the same wintering
sites each year. Destruction or heavy human use of winter beach habitat
has resulted in sharp declines in recent decades.
Habitat: In summer, found on dry rocky
tundra close to ponds and lakes. At other seasons, they are generally
found on sandy beaches and occasionally on rocky coastlines.
Diet: On summer breeding grounds,
primarily feeds on insects and insect larvae, as well as some vegetation.
In winter and in migrations, feeds on sand crabs, small mollusks and
crustaceans, amphipods, isopods, and marine worms. In spring, they often
stopover to feed heavily on horseshoe crab eggs. They have also learned to
eat human food that has been discarded.
Nesting: Non-breeder in South Dakota. In
breeding range, the nest of a Sanderling is a shallow depression on the ground,
lined with bits of vegetation. The female lays 3 or 4 eggs, and both
parents help to incubate them. When the eggs hatch, the young quickly
leave the nest and feed themselves, but are usually tended by both parents.
Sometimes only one parent tends the young. The young typically fledge by
about 18 days.
Migration: Summers in the high Arctic. Winters along all
coastlines of the U.S. and southward. Also found in the Eastern
Hemisphere, and they can be found nearly worldwide in the winter.
Conservation Status: Some surveys have indicated a very serious
decline since the 1970s, primarily due to habitat destruction. However,
they are still found over a very wide geographic area, they are common in parts
of their range, and overall populations are strong.
The IUCN lists the
Sanderling as a species of "Least Concern".
Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Sanderling
Photo Information: December 9th, 2011 - Pacific Coast
near San Francisco, California - Terry Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Sanderling photos.