Photo: Phil Brown/Flickr Creative Commons

Purple Sandpiper

Calidris maritima

Seemingly adapted to tough conditions is this stout, short-legged sandpiper. It winters farther north on the Atlantic Coast than any other shorebird, and its chosen habitat is on coastal rocks pounded by the surf. When an especially large wave hits the rocks, the lowest birds in a flock may simply hop or flutter up far enough to evade the incoming water. Few birders ever see this species on its remote breeding grounds in the Canadian high arctic.
Conservation status Numbers apparently stable or perhaps increasing. Breeding range is mostly remote from human impacts. Building of rock jetties along Atlantic Coast may have increased available wintering habitat.
Family Sandpipers
Habitat Wave-washed rocks, jetties. In winter almost always on rocky shores or rock jetties and breakwaters, foraging in zone below high-tide mark. Sometimes in areas of seaweed washed up on beaches. In summer on barren northern tundra, especially in rocky areas or ridges.
Seemingly adapted to tough conditions is this stout, short-legged sandpiper. It winters farther north on the Atlantic Coast than any other shorebird, and its chosen habitat is on coastal rocks pounded by the surf. When an especially large wave hits the rocks, the lowest birds in a flock may simply hop or flutter up far enough to evade the incoming water. Few birders ever see this species on its remote breeding grounds in the Canadian high arctic.
Photo Gallery
Feeding Behavior

Clambers over rocks, seaweed, beaches, or tundra, looking for prey. Occasionally probes in mud, but usually finds food visually.


Eggs

4, sometimes 3. Olive to buff, blotched with brown. Incubation is by both sexes (but male often does more), 21-22 days. Young: May leave nest within a few hours after hatching. Young are cared for mostly or entirely by male; from the beginning, young find their own food. Age at first flight not well known, probably about 3 weeks.


Young

May leave nest within a few hours after hatching. Young are cared for mostly or entirely by male; from the beginning, young find their own food. Age at first flight not well known, probably about 3 weeks.

Diet

Mostly insects and mollusks. On breeding grounds eats mostly insects, also some crustaceans, spiders, worms. Unlike most sandpipers, also eats some plant material, including berries, buds, seeds, leaves, and moss. On migration and winter, diet is mostly small mollusks, including mussels and snails, also some crustaceans and insects.


Nesting

In territorial display, male flies in wide circles with wings fluttered above horizontal. Displays to intruders on ground by raising one wing high above back. Male may pursue female on ground or in the air. Nest site is on ground on open tundra, either in high rocky area or lower wet site, often among lichen or moss. Nest is shallow depression, with or without lining of grass, leaves. Male makes up to 5 nest scrapes, female chooses one.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

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

Migration

Apparently follows coast in migration, seldom appearing inland. Fall migration much later than that of most sandpipers, not appearing on wintering grounds in numbers until November.

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Migration

Apparently follows coast in migration, seldom appearing inland. Fall migration much later than that of most sandpipers, not appearing on wintering grounds in numbers until November.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A single or double twit or twit-twit.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Sandpipers Sandpiper-like Birds

Purple Sandpiper

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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