Pectoral Sandpiper

Calidris melanotos



A middle-sized wader just a little bigger than the Dunlin. Its legs are yellow all year round, its bill curves downward slightly, its head is small, wings are long, and it has a pale horizontal stripe above the eye. Juveniles are the birds most likely to occur in the region. They have grey, brown, and black feathers on the back; the pale-edged feathers form two lines down the back. The neck, face and breast are streaked and there is a distinct contrast between breast and white belly. Males are larger than females, and adults have duller plumage than juveniles, the back stripes less clear. When flying, the middle of the rump has a dark line with a white oval on either side; there are faint, long bars on the wings.


Breeding grounds are on Arctic tundra, and this bird has a preference for freshwater. Tends to feed in shallow freshwater pools, lake margins, reservoirs, creeks and marshy areas.


Has a more subdued, relaxed feeding motion than other small waders; the neck becomes outstretched if the bird is alarmed.


Diets consists of mainly flies, beetles, sandhoppers, worms and some plant material.


Does not breed in the region; nesting occurs in the Arctic in June and July. Both males and females may mate with multiple partners. Majority of males desert before the eggs hatch, so the female incubates and takes care of the young.


Populations from Siberia primarily cross North America through Alaska, then head down to South America – this occurs between August and November. The migration heading north usually begins at the end of February; birds travel across the Caribbean then through the USA, to end in the Arctic. The small number of birds that arrive in Britain are predominately juveniles; they're most likely birds from Canada who are on their way down the western Atlantic. Approximately 90 individuals occur in Britain each year.

Observation Tips

Majority of the birds found in the region are juveniles, and they're most common in the autumn. Freshwater pools and marshes are the best places to seek these young birds, particularly in the south-west of Ireland, the English south-west peninsula (particularly Cornwall) and East Anglia.


Makes a 'kreet' call when flying.
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