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Solitary Sandpiper

Tringa solitaria

Length: 8 inches Wingspan: 16 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Slender body, dark upperparts with obvious spotting, white eye ring, thin straight bill

Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitariaWell named, the Solitary Sandpiper is usually seen as a single bird, shunning the more gregarious nature of most other sandpipers. Also unlike nearly all other sandpipers, they don't nest on the ground, but instead use old songbird nests in trees.  Another unusual characteristic for a shorebird, Solitary Sandpipers sometimes practice nest parasitism, laying their eggs in the nests of different species of birds.

In South Dakota, Solitary Sandpipers are migrants, seen in both the spring and fall seasons.


In migration through the state, they are generally found in flooded fields, wet meadows, and along edges of streams and ponds.  They are generally not found on open mudflats like their close relatives, the Yellowlegs.


Primarily feeds on insects, especially aquatic insects, but also terrestrial insects such as grasshoppers and beetles.  Also will feed on small crustaceans, mollusks, worms, small amphibians, and occasionally small fish.


Prefers shallow water along shorelines for foraging, both by probing with its bill in the mud and water, and by picking food items from the water's surface.  Solitary Sandpipers will occasionally stir up the stream or lake bottom with their feet to reveal food items.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. On their nesting grounds, Solitary Sandpipers are a shorebird that nest in trees. They don't typically build their own nest, instead using the nest of a songbird species that they adapt to their purposes. Typical nesting sites used by Solitary Sandpipers are former nests of American Robins, Canada Jays, Rusty Blackbirds, Cedar Waxwings, or Bohemian Waxwings. They typically do some slight modifications to the existing nest, lining it with fresh, fine material such as grasses and rootlets. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, and she alone incubates them. The young hatch after 22 to 24 days, and leave the nest within a day of hatching. Both parents will tend to the young until they become independent.


A crisp, rising pee-EET flight call.  Alarm call is a sharp, short kleek.


Summers throughout much of Canada and Alaska.  Winters in South America. In South Dakota, they are migrants that could be found in both the spring and fall seasons. Note some birds migrate southward quite early in the "fall" (hence photos of Solitary Sandpipers in July below).

Interactive eBird map:

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

Similar Species:

Solitary Sandpipers could potentially be confused with the following species:

Spotted Sandpiper 2 - Actitis macularius Lesser Yellowlegs 17 - Tringa flavipes  Greater Yellowlegs - Tringa melanoleuca  Stilt Sandpiper - Calidris himantopus 
Spotted Sandpiper Lesser Yellowlegs Greater Yellowlegs Stilt Sandpiper

Conservation Status:

The widely dispersed population makes analysis of populations trends difficult. Howeer, where systematic surveys are conducted, substantial populations declines have been noted in recent decades. However, they are still found across a very broad geographic area, and have healthy populations in parts of that range. The IUCN considers the Spotted Sandpiper to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

August 17th, 2004 - Lake Thompson, Kingsbury County - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

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

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Solitary Sandpiper - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant throughout the state.

Additional Solitary Sandpiper Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Solitary Sandpiper 1 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 2 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 3 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 4 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 5 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 6 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 7 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 8 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 9 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 10 - Tringa solitariaSolitary Sandpiper 11 - Tringa solitaria