Photo: Michael Baglole/Flickr Creative Commons

Solitary Sandpiper

Tringa solitaria

Conservation status Population very difficult to census, because birds are so dispersed at all seasons, but no obvious decline in numbers.
Family Sandpipers
Habitat Streamsides, wooded swamps and ponds, fresh marshes. In migration generally along shaded streams and ponds, riverbanks, narrow channels in marshes. Sometimes along the edges of open mudflats, but generally avoids tidal flats and salt marsh. Nests in muskeg region, with bogs and ponds surrounded by forest of spruce and other trees.
Almost all of our sandpipers migrate in flocks and nest on the ground, but the Solitary Sandpiper breaks both rules. In migration, as its name implies, it is usually encountered alone, along the bank of some shady creek. If approached, it bobs nervously, then flies away with sharp whistled cries. In summer in the northern spruce bogs, rather than nesting on the wet ground, the Solitary Sandpiper lays its eggs in old songbird nests placed high in trees.
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Feeding Behavior

Mostly forages in shallow water, moving about actively, picking items from surface; also probes in water and mud. While walking in water, may pause and quiver one foot, presumably to stir up small creatures from the bottom.


Eggs

4, rarely 5. Olive to buff, marked with brown. Incubation details poorly known, may be by both parents, roughly 23-24 days. Young: Development and behavior of young poorly known. Since parents are not known to feed young, apparently the chicks must jump to the ground; probably tended there by one or both parents. Age of young at first flight not known.


Young

Development and behavior of young poorly known. Since parents are not known to feed young, apparently the chicks must jump to the ground; probably tended there by one or both parents. Age of young at first flight not known.

Diet

Insects and other small aquatic creatures. Feeds on many insects of water and shore, including beetles, dragonfly nymphs, grasshoppers; also crustaceans, spiders, worms, mollusks, occasionally small frogs.


Nesting

Breeding behavior not well known. In breeding season, male gives repeated call while perching on tops of trees, or while performing display flight over nesting territory. Nest: Uses nests built by songbirds such as American Robin, Rusty Blackbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Jay. Nest chosen is usually in spruce or other conifer, sometimes in deciduous tree, 4-40' above ground. Sandpipers may sometimes take over a freshly-built nest. Female may add lining material to original nest.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

A long-distance migrant, wintering mostly in South America, especially around swamps and riverbanks in the Amazon Basin. Apparently migrates mostly alone and at night.

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Migration

A long-distance migrant, wintering mostly in South America, especially around swamps and riverbanks in the Amazon Basin. Apparently migrates mostly alone and at night.

Songs and Calls
A high-pitched peet-weet or peet-weet-weet, more shrill than call of Spotted Sandpiper.