SEMI-PALMATED SANDPIPER (Calidris pusilla) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Semipalmated Sandpiper is a small shorebird with mottled brown top parts. Breast is white with brown streaking, under parts white. Eyes and bill are black, with bill about same length as head. Legs are dark grey. Sexes are similar. Bird length is about 15 cm (6 inches).
VOICE: –The semipalmated sandpiper is part of what are called the ‘peeps’, owing to their high-pitch call.
NAME: The English name ‘Sandpiper’ stems from ‘sand’, and Latin ‘pipa’, which means to ‘chirp’. ‘Semipalmated’ stems from the fact that the bird’s feet are partly webbed. Latin genus name ‘Calidris’ refers to a grey speckled shorebird. Latin species name ‘pusilla’ means ‘very small’.
HABITAT: Wet tundra in summer, mudflats, beaches in winter.
DIET: Insects, crustaceans, molluscs, worms.
NESTING: Nest is built on a small mound under thick vegetation. Usually four light green eggs are laid, incubated by both parents. Chicks able to feed themselves soon after hatching, but cared for by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds in North America and east Siberia tundra. Migrates over rest of Canada and most of USA except the west. Winters in the Caribbean and along the coast of northern half of South America.
Distribution Map:
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, very common during migration.
CONSERVATION: Population declining, listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by IUCN. Some threats are habitat degradation from resources exploitation, development, over fishing and pollution. Highly dependent on some small feeding areas during migration, one being the Bay of Fundy Minas Basin.
NOTES: When migrating, gathers in flocks with other species such as the Semipalmated Plover (see photos below).
Hopping on one leg: Sometimes this sandpiper will hop on one leg for a short distance before using its other leg too.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Least Sandpiper, Sanderling, White-rumped Sandpiper
American Bird Conservancy (Semipalmated Sandpiper) (Nova Scotia Dept of Natural Resources) (New Hampshire PBS) (Hinterland Who’s Who)

Semipalmated Sandpipers – PEI National Park – © Roberta Palmer
Semipalmated sandpipers, by Roberta Palmer