Green Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus



A stout wader with a longer bill than the Wood Sandpiper's but shorter legs. The sexes are similar. Upperparts are dark greenish brown with white spotting. The head, neck and breast are brown and streaky (particularly in summer) and there's a clear separation from the crisp white underparts. A pale supercilium is above and in front of the eye, but not behind; legs are greenish-yellow. The tail has wide dark bands, though it often appears uniformly dark. When flying, the wings are dark on top and below, and the rump is white. Juvenile birds resemble adults but the light spotting is more vivid.


When not breeding, prefers inland territories such as marshes, muddy lake margins, reservoirs, flood waters and freshwater rivers. Birds that spend winter in the region can be found in ditches on lowland agricultural land, as well as the regular freshwater habitats. Breeding occurs in damp woods and forests.


A timid bird which bobs when it walks and wiggles its rump. May be found alone or in small groups. If alarmed, it takes off quickly and flies in a zig-zag pattern.


Winter diet includes insects and their larvae, including mayflies, stoneflies, caddis flies, and beetles. Also eats freshwater shrimps, worms, small snails and fish.


Uncommon for these birds to breed in Britain or Ireland. Nests are in trees (generally uncharacteristic of waders) in the abandoned nests of other species. Female lays 3 or 4 eggs and she incubates for 20-23 days with some help from the male. Both adults look after the young, though the female may depart before the chicks can fly at 28 days old.


Females begin southern migration in June, leaving before males and females, and are back on breeding grounds by the middle of May. Largest numbers are seen during migration and fewer than 1000 birds spend winter in the region.

Observation Tips

The Green Sandpiper is widespread in the region during migration, particularly in south-east and central England. These areas offer the highest likelihood of spotting these birds; watercress beds during winter are ideal habitats for observation.


Has a 'chlueet-wit-wit' alarm call; the last two syllables are in higher pitch.
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