Bird GuideSandpipersSolitary Sandpiper

At a Glance

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.
Sandpiper-like Birds, Sandpipers
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


8 1/2" (22 cm). Slender, with thin straight bill. May bob its head when excited. Darker than Spotted Sandpiper, more obvious white eye-ring. In flight, tail shows dark center, white outer edges.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Robin
Black, Brown, White
Wing Shape
Long, Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A high-pitched peet-weet or peet-weet-weet, more shrill than call of Spotted Sandpiper.
Call Pattern
Flat, Rising
Call Type
Chirp/Chip, Whistle


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.



4, rarely 5. Olive to buff, marked with brown. Incubation details poorly known, may be by both parents, roughly 23-24 days.


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.

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.


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.


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.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Population very difficult to census, because birds are so dispersed at all seasons, but no obvious decline in numbers.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Solitary Sandpiper. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Solitary 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.

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