At a Glance
This rusty-headed little sandpiper is mostly an Asian bird, but every summer, small numbers cross the Bering Strait to nest in western Alaska. Rarely, a few individuals will migrate south in the Americas rather than taking their usual route south to the Australasian region. Such strays have been seen on both coasts and at points in between. Most Rufous-necked Stints found south of Alaska have been adults migrating south in July, still in distinctive breeding plumage.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Sandpiper-like Birds, Sandpipers
Coasts and Shorelines, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats, Running
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Adults migrate south earlier than juveniles, often migrating during July. Most migrate through Asia, wintering abundantly to southern Australia. Strays in all parts of North America, even on east coast, undoubtedly come via Siberia and Alaska, not across the Atlantic.
6 1/2" (17 cm). In summer, has reddish face and throat. Sanderling in summer very similar, but larger, with stouter bill. Juvenile and winter very much like Semipalmated Sandpiper.
About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, Gray, Orange, White
Long, Pointed, Tapered
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped, Wedge-shaped
Songs and Calls
A thin chit-chit.
Mudflats, shores; tundra in summer. In Alaska found on coastal tundra, or dry foothills tundra not far from coast, also at nearby rivermouths and shores. In migration, occurs in the same kinds of situations as those favored by Semipalmated and Western sandpipers, including coastal estuaries and tidal flats, also muddy edges of ponds and lakes inland.
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Usually 4. Olive to buff, blotched with brown. Incubation is apparently by both parents; incubation period not well known, probably about 3 weeks.
Downy young leave nest soon after hatching, probably find all their own food. Young may be tended by both parents at first, but female often abandons them shortly after hatching, leaving male to care for the young. Age at first flight not well known.
Forages by walking, usually on shore rather than in shallow water, picking rapidly at tiny items on surface. Sometimes probes in mud with bill.
Mostly insects and crustaceans. Diet not well known, probably similar to that of Semipalmated Sandpiper. In breeding season may feed mostly on insects, especially flies and their larvae. During migration, probably eats a wide variety of small crustaceans that live in shallow water or wet mud, also insects, small mollusks, worms.
Breeding behavior not well known. Male displays over breeding territory by fluttering and gliding, giving a repeated nasal call; at the end of the display, he holds the wings high over his back in a sharp "V" and drops to the ground. Nest site is on ground, often on moss hummock in rocky tundra with dwarf willows nearby. Nest is shallow depression in moss or other vegetation, typically lined with willow leaves.
No obvious trend in small Alaska population. Numbers breeding in Russia not well known.