|Conservation status||Numbers wintering in the Pacific Northwest have declined since the 1970s.|
|Habitat||Rocky shores; nests on mossy tundra. In winter typically on rocky shores or rock jetties, foraging mostly in zone below high-tide mark, especially on mats of algae or among mussels or barnacles. Breeds on tundra, generally on drier and more barren stretches with sparse cover of lichen, moss, grasses.|
forages by moving about slowly on rocks, or walking on mudflats or tundra. Finds its food visually.
usually 4. Olive to buff, blotched with brown. Incubation is usually by both sexes, about 20 days. Occasionally only one parent (either one) incubates. If predators threaten nest, adult may perform distraction display, fluttering away as if wing is broken. Young: may leave the nest within a few hours after hatching. Usually tended by male, rarely by female or by both parents. Young find all their own food. Age at first flight not well known, probably about 3 weeks.
may leave the nest within a few hours after hatching. Usually tended by male, rarely by female or by both parents. Young find all their own food. Age at first flight not well known, probably about 3 weeks.
mostly insects and other invertebrates. Insects may be main part of diet on breeding grounds, but also eats crustaceans, mollusks, marine worms. Unlike most sandpipers, also eats some plant material, including berries, seeds, moss, and algae. On migration and winter, diet is mostly small mollusks, crustaceans, and insects.
Male defends territory by flying in wide circle with fluttering wingbeats, giving trilled calls. In aggressive display on ground, male raises one wing. Nest site is on ground on open dry tundra, often on a raised area of lichen or moss. Nest is a deep scrape, usually lined with lichen, leaves, grass. Male begins scrape, female may add some lining.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Those nesting on Pribilofs and Aleutians are apparently short-distance migrants or permanent residents. Mainland breeders go farther south. Some of those wintering on our west coast south of Alaska probably come from Siberia.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsUsually silent; low whistled notes sometimes heard in winter.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Rock Sandpiper
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Rock Sandpiper
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.