Bird GuideSandpipersWhite-rumped Sandpiper

At a Glance

The trademark white rump patch is usually hidden by the long wings, which are a clue to this bird's long migrations. Many fly annually from Canada's Arctic islands to the southern tip of South America; some have gone even farther, to islands near the Antarctic Peninsula. In North America, White-rumped Sandpipers are seen in greatest numbers during northward migration through the Great Plains. At some stopover points, such as Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas, many thousands may be present in late spring.
Sandpiper-like Birds, Sandpipers
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats, Running, Undulating

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

A very long-distance migrant. In fall, many make nonstop flight from eastern Canada to northern South America. In spring, most move north through Great Plains and Mississippi Valley. A late migrant in spring, with peak numbers in central United States in late May, some lingering into June.


7 1/2" (19 cm). Long wingtips extend past tip of tail. In spring, black streaks on chest and down sides, upperparts warmer brown. Fall juveniles chestnut on crown and back (see Western Sandpiper). Fall adults very plain above. White rump visible only in flight.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Gray, White
Wing Shape
Long, Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A very high-pitched tzeet; also a swallow-like twitter.
Call Pattern
Falling, Flat, Rising, Undulating
Call Type
Buzz, Chirp/Chip, Rattle, Trill


Prairies, shores, mudflats; in summer, tundra. During migration, found in a variety of situations, including flooded fields, shallow ponds, edges of freshwater marshes, tidal flats, gravel beaches. Breeds mostly on low-lying wet tundra with grassy areas and dwarf willows; sometimes on higher and drier tundra.



4, rarely 3. Olive to green, sometimes buff, blotched with brown, olive-brown, or gray. Incubation is by female only, about 22 days.


Downy young leave nest less than a day after hatching. Female tends young and broods them to keep them warm, but young apparently find all their own food. Age at first flight about 16-17 days; become independent soon thereafter.

Feeding Behavior

On mudflats, forages by probing in mud or in shallow water, also picks up some items from surface. On tundra, often probes deeply in moss and other vegetation.


Includes insects, mollusks, marine worms, seeds. Diet not well known. On breeding grounds, probably eats mostly insects, including crane flies, beetles. During migration and winter, eats insects, marine worms, snails and other mollusks, crustaceans, leeches. Also eats many seeds and other plant material at various times of year.


Male displays over breeding territory by gliding and fluttering, making rattling and oinking sounds. On ground, male stretches wings out to side, raises tail high to show off white rump patch, and walks and runs while giving repeated call. Nest site is on ground, usually well hidden in clump of grass or moss on tundra. Nest (built by female) is a cup-shaped depression; lining material, bits of lichen, moss, and leaves, may be present naturally, not added by female.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Because migration often involves long flights, species is dependent on stopover points to feed and refuel for next flight; loss of these staging areas could cause serious problems.

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 White-rumped Sandpiper. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the White-rumped 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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