Calidris canutus



A plump wader with a short, straight bill and greenish grey legs. Summer plumage is brownish red; the face, neck and underparts are lighter, and the feathers of the back are fringed in grey. At other times, when it is most common in the region, it has grey upperparts and white underparts, and a pale patch over the eye. When flying is has a white bar on its wings and a light rump. Juveniles have a distinct stripe over the eye, and their grey, black-edged feathers give a scaly effect. They're buffish overall.


Predominately on estuaries in Britain and Ireland, but its Arctic breeding grounds include peninsulas, islands and barren plateaux. Uncharacteristic for adults to visit inland territories.


Associates in large flocks in the region and they fly in formation, performing great synchronised moves, shifting colour from grey to white as they do so. They gather in roosts at high tide, usually next to the water's edge or on rocky islands.


Searches mud with its beak for small shellfish, cockles, mussels and snails. In Arctic summer the diet includes flies, beetles, worms and plant material.


Not a breeding bird in Britain. Lays 3 or 4 eggs which are incubated by both adults for 21-22 days. After about 18-20 days young can fly, though the female usually deserts before then.


Most birds depart their breeding grounds in August and may stay in Britain until May. They make long-distance, non-stop flights to the region, then prepare for their next move to western Europe. More than 330 000 spend winter in the UK and 19 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Many of the region's large estuaries attract flocks during the winter; at low tide, check mudflats for birds searching for shellfish. The Wash and Snettisham reserve are promising locations. It's quite a spectacle to see the formation of birds in flight, which often coincides with the rising of the tide.


Have a shrill 'kwet', or a lower 'knut' call. May utter a 'quick-ick' as it takes off.
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