|Conservation status||Still abundant, but has declined in recent years. Vulnerable because of heavy dependence on a few key stopover points in migration. Several special reserves have been established to protect this and other migratory shorebirds.|
|Habitat||Beaches, mudflats; tundra in summer. During migration along coast found on mudflats in intertidal zone, shallow estuaries and inlets, beaches. Inland, occurs on edges of lakes and marshes next to very shallow water. Nests on low arctic tundra, near water.|
Forages mostly by walking on wet mud, looking for prey; sometimes probes in mud with bill. In coastal areas, does most feeding while tide is falling or at low tide. May forage at night.
4, sometimes 3. Variable in color, whitish to olive-buff, blotched with brown and gray. Incubation is by both parents, usually 20 days. Young: Downy young leave nest within hours after hatching. Young are tended by both parents at first, but female usually deserts them within a few days. Male remains with young until they are about old enough to fly, but young feed themselves. Young can make short flights at about 2 weeks after hatching, can fly fairly well at 16-19 days, when not quite full-grown.
Downy young leave nest within hours after hatching. Young are tended by both parents at first, but female usually deserts them within a few days. Male remains with young until they are about old enough to fly, but young feed themselves. Young can make short flights at about 2 weeks after hatching, can fly fairly well at 16-19 days, when not quite full-grown.
Mostly tiny aquatic insects and crustaceans. Diet varies with season and place. In breeding season eats mostly insects, especially flies and their larvae, also some spiders, snails, seeds. During migration, feeds on a wide variety of small crustaceans that live in shallow water or wet mud, also many insects, small mollusks, worms.
Male defends territory with display flight, fluttering wings and singing a sputtering trill (sounds like a tiny outboard motor). Females are attracted by song; male and female may chase each other around territory. Nest site is on ground, often at top of low mound or on island, under small shrub. Nest is shallow depression lined with leaves, grass, moss. Male makes potential nest scrapes, female chooses one and adds nest material.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Migrates in flocks. May make very long nonstop flights between major feeding areas on migration. In fall, adults move south about a month before juveniles on average. One-year-old birds mostly stay on wintering grounds through first summer.
- 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 CallsA sharp cheh or churk, not as drawn out as the notes of the Least and Western sandpipers.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Semipalmated 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 Semipalmated 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.