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These small birds can be spotted on shorelines across North America.

You may need to look closely at a range map for the Sanderling, for its small breeding range is located very far north in the arctic, and its winter range is a narrow strip along the East, West, and Gulf Coasts. Sanderlings are easily recognized by behavior in winter as they run out and back on the beach, staying just at the edge of the constantly changing waves.

The short, hectic arctic summers and long annual migrations don’t seem to be much of a hardship for the Sanderling, for the oldest known bird lived to thirteen years of age. The young chicks are vulnerable, however, and can be killed by cold weather.


Description of the Sanderling


The Sanderling is a medium shorebird with dark legs and a rather short, dark bill. Breeding birds are reddish on the face, neck, and breast. In flight, Sanderlings show a broad, white wing stripe.  Length: 8 in.  Wingspan: 17 in.


The sexes are similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

Winter birds are plain, pale grayish above and white below.


Juveniles have dark upperparts boldly marked with white.


Sanderlings inhabit beaches and lakeshores.


Sanderlings eat sand crabs and other small invertebrates.


Sanderlings forage by running towards the water as a wave retreats from the beach in order to search for unearthed crabs.


Sanderlings breed in arctic Canada. They winter along the coasts of the U.S. and Mexico and occur as a migrant across most of the U.S. and Canada. The population has declined in recent years.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the American Goldfinch.

Fun Facts

Female Sanderlings occasionally lay two sets of eggs, and the male incubates one set.

Sanderlings are much more active than most shorebirds, running back and forth as waves advance and recede.


The flight song is a complicated series of trills and croaks.  A “wit” call is also given.


Similar Species

  • Sanderlings are larger than the other small “peep” sandpipers.


The Sanderling’s nest is a scrape lined with leaves.

Number: Usually lay 4 eggs.
Color: Olive with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 24-31 days, and leave the nest shortly after hatching, though associating with the adults for some time.


Bent Life History of the Sanderling

Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.

Bent Life History for the Sanderling – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.



Along the forearm of Cape Cod, from the elbow at Chatham to the wrist near Provincetown, extend about 30 miles of nearly continuous ocean beaches, to which we can add 10 more if we include that long, narrow strip of beach and marsh called Monomoy. Facing the broad Atlantic and exposed to all its furious storms, these beaches are swept clean and pounded to a hard surface by the ceaseless waves. Even in calm weather the restless ocean swells and surges up and down over these sloping sands, and the winter storms may make or wash away a mile or so of beach in a single season. Here on the ocean side of the beach, the “back side of the beach,” as it is called on the cape, is the favorite resort of the little sanderlings in fair weather or in foul. They are well named “beach birds,” for here they are seldom found anywhere except on the ocean beaches, and I believe that the same is true of the Pacific coast. They are particularly active and happy during stormy weather, for then a bountiful supply of food is cast up by the heavy surf. But at all times the surf line attracts them, where they nimbly follow the receding waves to snatch their morsels of food or skillfully dodge the advancing line of foam as it rolls up the beach.

Spring: To the ends of the earth and back again extend the migrations of the sanderling, the cosmopolitan globe trotter; few species, if any, equal it in world-wide wanderings. Nesting in the Arctic regions of both hemispheres, it migrates through all of the continents, and many of the islands, to the southernmost limits of south America and Africa, and even to Australia.

The spring migration starts in March, though the last migrants may not leave their winter resorts until late in April; they have been noted in Chile from April 11 to 29, and even in May. The earliest migrants have been known to reach New England and Ohio before the end of March. The main flight passes through Massachusetts in May, a few birds lingering into June. In the interior and on the Pacific coast the dates are about the same. C. G. Harrold has taken it in Manitoba as early as April 29, but William Rowan (1926) says that the main flight comes along during the last week in May and the first few days of June, when it is abundant.

A. L. V. Manniche (1910) thus describes the arrival of the sanderling on its breeding grounds in northeastern Greenland:

The sanderling arrived at Stormkap singly or In couples respectively June 2, 1907, and May 28, 1908. In company with the other waders and large flocks of snow buntings, which arrived at the same time, the sanderlings would in the first days after their arrival resort to the few spots In the marshes and the surrounding stony plains, which were free from snow; here they led a miserable existence. Heavy snow storms and low temperature In connection with want of open water made the support of life difficult to the birds.

The temperature increased quickly and caused In a few days the places in which the birds could find food to extend very much. The areas free from snow grew larger and larger, and the ice along the beaches of small lakes and ponds with low water disappeared before the scorching sun; at the same time small ponds of melting snow were formed around In the field. Now the sanderlings would in couples retire from the party of other birds, and lead a quiet and tranquil life on the stony and dry plains. Now and then they would pay a visit to ponds of melting snow and beaches of fresh water lakes In order to bathe and seek food, and here they would join the party of other small waders as for instance Tringe alpina and Aegialitis hiaticula. According to my experience old birds would never resort to salt water shore.

Courtship: The same observer tells us all we know about the courtship of the sanderling, as follows:

The pairing began toward the middle of June. The peculiar pairing flight of the male was to he seen and heard when the weather was fine, and especially In the evening. Uttering a snarling or slight neighing sound, he mounts to a height of some two meters from the surface of the ground on strongly whirring wings, to continue at this height his flight for a short distance, most frequently in a straight line, but sometimes in small circles.

When excited he frequently sits on the top of a solitary large stone, his dorsal feathers blown out, his tall spread, and his wings half let down, producing his curious subdued pairing tones. He, however, soon returns to the female, which always keeps mute, and then he tries by slow, affected, almost creeping movements to induce her to pairing, until at last the act of pairing takes place; when effected, both birds rush away in rapid flight, to return soon after to the nesting place. I have also observed males in pairing flight without being able to discover any female In the neighborhood, and then, of course, without realizing the pairing as completing act The male is in the pairing time very quarrelsome, and does not permit any strange bird to Intrude on the selected domain. He seems to be meet envious against birds of his own kin.

Nesting: The sanderling breeds only in the far north, so far north that only very few Arctic explorers have found its nest. Strangely, however, the first recorded nest was found in a region where it rarely breeds and considerably south of its main breeding grounds. This was the nest found by Roderick MacFarlane (1908) on the barren grounds of northern Canada, of which he says:

On the 29th of June, 1864, we discovered a nest of this species in the barren grounds east of Fort Anderson. It contained four eggs, which we afterwards learnt were the first and only authenticated examples at that time known to American naturalists. The nest was composed of withered grasses and leaves placed in a small cavity or depression in the ground. The contents of the eggs were quite fresh, and they measured 1.44 inches by 0.95 to 0.99 in breadth, and their ground color was a brownish olive marked with faint spots and blotches of bister. These markings were very generally diffused, but were a little more numerous about the larger ends. They were of an oblong pyriform shape. The parent bird was snared on the nest. It is a very rare bird In the Anderson River country, and we failed to find another best thereof.

The main breeding grounds of the sanderling are probably on the more northern Arctic islands, but not enough nests have ever been found anywhere to produce the hosts of birds which we see on migrations. Col. H. W. Feilden (187′() gives the following description of his discovery of the nest of this species:

I first observed this species in Grinnell Land on the 5th of June, 1876, flying in company with knots and turnstones; at this date It was feeding, like the other waders, on the buds of Sasifrainr oppoitifoua. This bird was by no means abundant along the coast of Grinnell Land, hut I observed several pairs in the aggregate, and found a nest of this species containing two eggs in latitude 820 33′ N. on June 24, 1876. This nest, from which I killed the male bird, was placed on a gravel ridge, at an altitude of several hundred feet above the sea, and the eggs were deposited in a slight depression in the center of a recumbent plant of Arctic willow, the lining of the nest consisting of a few withered leaves and some of the last year’s catkins. August 8, 1876, along the shores of Robeson Channel, I saw several parties of young ones, three to four in number, following their parents, and led by the old birds, searching most diligently for insects. At this date they were in a very interesting stage of plumage, being just able to fly, but retaining some of the down on their feathers.

The best account we have of the home life of the sanderling is given to us by Mr. Manniche (1910), who found this species to be one of the commonest breeding birds in northeastern Greenland. He writes:

In the extensive moor and marsh stretches west of Stormkap are many smaller stony and clayey parts lying scattered like a sort of islands. As these “stone isles~’ are most restricted in size, I could without special difficulty realize the existence of the birds here, and I found several nestling sanderlings on such places. The problem was decidedly more difficult to me when the birds had their homes on the extensive tahie-lands farther inland; here it will depend on luck to meet with a couple of nestling sanderlings.

The laying began about June 20. The first nest found containing eggs dates from June 28; these had, however, already been brooded for some days. The clutch of eggs latest found dates from July 15; the eggs in this nest were very much Incubated. The sanderling places its nest on the before mentioned dry clay-mixed stony plains sparsely covered with erotica, Drpae octopetale, Sahrifraga oppositifolia, and a few other scattered low growths. I only found the nest on places of this type, never on moors or plains entirely uncovered. The larger or smaller extent, the higher or lower position over the level of the sea and the distance from nearest shore of such Locality Is, according to my experience, of no consequence. It only seems, as If the sanderling prefers to nest on such places, which are situated not very far from fresh water: a lake or a pond: to the shores of which the young ones are often directed. Some nests found prove, however, that the birds do not insist upon this.

The situation of the nest is also extremely constant. At the edge: or rarer farther In: of a tuft of Dryns, the bird will form a cup-Shaped not very deep nest hollow, the bottom of which Is sparsely lined with withered leaves of Sali~r arctica or other plants growing In the neighbourhood. In size, and partly in shape t~.a sanderling’s nest resembles that of Tringa al~ina. The striking likeness In color to the surroundings and the monotonous character of the landscape makes It extremely difficult to find the nest unless the bird Itself shows the way to it. The number of eggs in a clutch is always four. I found eleven nests with eggs and some fifty hatches of downy young ones but none of these differed from the normal number.

By excellent tactics the breeding female understnnds to keep secret the hiding place of the iiest. She will generally leave the nest so early and secretly, that even the most experienced and attentive eye does not perceive it. She rushes rapidly from the nest with her head pressed down against her back executing some peculiar creeping movements quite mute, and hidden between stones and plants; following natural hollo~vs In the ground she will first appear In a distance of at least 100 meters from the nest. By means of short, snarling, and faint cries and now and then by flying up, she will then try to turn one~s attention to herself. She will often settle for some moments on small stones, clods of earth, and similar places, from which she again will rush away with her dorsal feathers erected and her wings hanging down and always In a direction opposite to that in which her nest is situated.

H. E. Dresser (1904) gives a translation of notes on this species made by Dr. H. Walter in the Taimyr Peninsula, from which I quote as follows:

The nests, found late in June nnd enrly in July, contained four eggs each in three cases and three eggs in one case. The nest was placed, unlike that of the other waders, which affected the grass-covered portions of the tundra, between bare clay lumps on moss, and consisted of a shallow depression lined with a few dry straws and a white tangle. In two cases the male, and in two the female, was incubating. On the 16/29 July, when the young in down were taken, the male showed anxiety, but the female was not seen. During the breeding season some of these birds wandered about in small flocks. This species remained until the end of August.

Eggs: The sanderling lays four eggs, sometimes only three. The eggs are very rare in collections and few are available for study, but they have been well described and fully illustrated. The eggs taken by Doctor Walter are described by Mr. Dresser (1904) as follows:

Blunt pyriform, fine gralned, with a faint gloss. Ground color pale yellowish white, with a very pale greenish tinge and somewhat marked with small yellowish brown and dark brown spots; a few indistinct light violet gray markings; at the larger end a few blackish dots and streaks.

In the colored illustrations of 10 eggs before me, the shapes vary from ovate pyriform, the prevailing shape, to subpyriform. The prevailing ground colors are greenish olive, “ecru-olive,” “lime green,” or “grape green ~7; a few eggs are more huffy, “cream buff to “deep olive buff.” The markings are small, and often inconspicuous, spots, scattered quite evenly over the entire surface, but sometimes more thickly about the larger end. These are in dull shades of brown, “huffy brown,” “snuff brown,” or “sepia.” They are not handsome or showy eggs. The measurements of 41 eggs, furnished by Rev. F. C. R. Jourdain, average 35.7 by 24.7 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 38.2 by 24.7, 34.1 by 26.1, 33.1 by 24.4 and 35.3 by 23.5 millimeters.

Young: Authorities seem to differ as to whether both sexes mcubate or not. Both Feilden and Walter secured incubating males, but Manniche (1910) says:

Till the laying is finished both birds will faithfully accompany each other, but as soon as the brooding begins, the males will join in smaller flocks and wander around on the table lands and at the beaches of the fresh waters, often in company with Triage cantaus and Strcpsilas iatcrpres. They usually left the country some days before the middle of July. I secured several males for examination but never found the least sign of a breeding spot.

He gives the period of incubation as 23 to 24 days and says of the young:

The bursting of the egg shells will generally begin already some three days before the emergence of the young. The mother bird will Immediately carefully carry the shells away from the nest in order not to attract the attention of ravens and skuas. Between the emergence of the young will elapse not more than a few hours; as soon as the latest born young one feels sufficiently strong; that is, when the Clown is dry, all the nestlings will leave the nest at the same time. If the old female considers the nearest surroundings of the nest to be unsafe or too difficult in food for the brood, she will Immediately lead the young away. Thus I have met with newly hatched young ones, hardly one hour after their departure from the nest in a distance of 500 to 600 meters from this. In the eases concerned the disturbance by my frequent visits to the nests during the breeding may have caused the early departure.

In the followiag 12 to 14 days the chicks are guarded by their careful and extremely vigilant mother, who leads them over stony plains, by oveifiows of melted snow and fresh-water beaches; they are eagerly occupied in seeking food, which at this period exclusively consists of small insects and larvae and pupae of these. I have often observed that the chicks take shelter under the wings of their mother from the cold nights and the heavy showers. The chicks’ power of resistance against cold and severe weather is relatively small.

When the sanderling ii’anis to protect her young ones against hostile attacks she executes still more surprising systematic tactics than she does when brooding. Already when at a distance of some 200 to 300 meters from the young ones the old female would rush toward me and by all kinds of flapping and creeping movements in an opposite direction try to lead me astray; all the while she would squeak like a young one, and now growl angrily, striving to draw my attention toward herself only. Now and then she would rise very high in the air in a direct rapid flight, to disappear behind a rock on the opposite beach of a lake, etc. From quite another direction she soon appeared again Just before my feet.

If I finally retired still farther away from the young ones and for a while kept myself hidden in the field, she would fly slowly, sometimes quite low, over the earth to the spot where the young still were lying motionless and mute, with their bodies pressed fiat against the earth and their neck and head stretched out. Whea at last the female considers the danger to be over, she, flying or running close to the chicks, produces a short chirping song, at the tones of which all four young ones suddenly get up and begin to run about Only in this case the sanderling produces its highly peculiar “sanderling song,” which is very similar to the song of Sylvia carraca. As long as the young kept lying quiet on the ground in the before-mentioned attitude they were extremely difficult to find, if I had not from my ambush by aid of my field glass exactly marked down the spot where they last apl)earcd. The young ones do not seek any real cover, as in hollows in the ground. under plants, behind stones, or similar natural hiding places. When I had found a single young one, which while I kept it in my hands began to chirp, It generally happened that the three other young, which had till then kept quiet, suddenly rose and, with the wings raised, uttered a quite fine mouse-like squeaking and hastily rushed away, while the old female, as if paralyzed, lay down before my feet, still squeaking exactly like the chicks.

Within 12 to 14 days the young ones are full grown and able to fly. Strange to say, the brood of the sanderling seems to suffer very little from hostile persecution, a fact which may be due to the accomplished vigilance aad prudent behaviour of the old female and the young as well as the extremely suitably coloured clothing of these. I wonder that these defenceless small beings can avoid the Polar fox, which in this season more frequently than usual visit~ the domain of the waders, and which, as well known, has an excellent sense of smell.

Plumages: The nestling sanderling is thus described in Witherby’s Handbook (1920):

Forehead buff with a median’ black line from base of upper mandible to crowil; nape buff, down with dusky bases; .rest of upper parts variegated light buff, warm buff and black and more or less spangled white; lores buff, two black lines across lores toward eye; under parts white, cheeks, chin and throat suffused light buff.

Mr. Manniche (1910) gives a colored plate showing four ages of downy young sanderlings, which the above description fits. A nestling 7 days old shows the remiges about one-third grown, while the body is still all downy. Another nearly fully grown only 11 days old is still downy on the head, neck, rump, and crissum, but is nearly fully feathered on the mantle and wings, partly feathered on the under parts and the wings extend beyond the stump of a tail; it must be close to the flight stage. Such is the rapid development of these little Arctic birds that Mr. Manniche (1910) says that they can fly when 14 days old.

In fresh juvenal plumage in the Arctic the feathers of the crown, mantle, wing coverts, scapulars, and tertials are blackish brown, broadly tipped, and all except those of the crown are also notched, with buff; the sides of the head, neck, and breast are washed with buff; before these birds reach us on migration these buff tints have mostly faded out to creamy yellow or white; the feathers of the lower back, rump, and upper tail coverts are ashy brown or grayish buff, each with a dusky shaft streak and narrowly tipped with dusky; as these feathers are not niolted during the first winter they produce a peculiar rump pattern by which young birds can be easily recognized. Young birds are in juvepal plumage when they arrive here, with conspicuous black and white backs. But the postjuvenal molt begins in September and is generally completed before November; this molt involves the body plumage, except the rump, and some of the wing coverts and tertials. The first winter plumage is Like that of the adult, plain gray above and white below, except for the retained juvenal feathers as indicated above.

A partial, or perhaps nearly complete, prenuptial molt takes place in young birds between March and May, involving the body plumage, sometimes the tail and most of the scapulars and wing coverts. In this first nuptial plumage young birds are much like adults, but can be recognized by some retained wing coverts and tertials; the latter are shorter than in adults, reaching not quite to the tip of the fourth primary in the folded wing; in the adult wing the tertials reach nearly to the tip of the third primary. At the next molt, the first postnuptial, the adult winter plumage is assumed.

Adults have a complete postnuptial molt from July to October or later. The body plumage is molted first, mainly in August and September, and the wings later, mainly in October; specimens have been seen with primaries in molt in February and March, but these are probably abnormal. The prenuptial molt of adults is incomplete, .nvolving nearly all of the body plumage, 6ut not all of the feathers of the back, scapulars, tertials, or wing coverts. The fresh nuptial plumage in early May is veiled with broad grayish white tips, which soon wear away. There is great individual variation in the amount of red assumed and in the molting date.

Food: The sanderling obtains most of its food by probing in the wet sand of the seashore or by picking up what is washed up and left by the receding waves. The former method is well described by Dr. Charles W. Townsend (1920) as follows:

On the hard wet sand of the beaches one may see In places the characteristic probings of the sanderling without a trace of theIr foot marks, and these may be the cause of considerable mystery to the uninitiated. While the semipalmated sandpiper runs about with his head down dabbing irregularly here and there, the sanderling vigorously probes the sand in a series of holes a ~uerter of an inch to an inch apart in straight or curving lines a foot to 2 feet long. Sometimes the probings are so near together that the line is almost a continuous one like the furrow of a miniatt”e plough. The sand is thrown up in advance so that one can tell in which direction the bird is going. A close inspectIon of the prohings often reveals their double character, showing that the bill was Introduced partly open. The probings are for the minute sand fleas and other crustaceans in the sand, their principal food. I have seea sanderlings running about nimbly on the bench, catching the sand fleas which were hopping on the surface. I have also seen them catching flies. I have a record of one I shot in 1884, whose stomach was stuffed with small specimens of the common mussel, Mytilus edulis.

The food consists mainly of sand fleas, shrimps, and other small crustaceans, small mollusks, marine worms, flies, fly larvae, and other insects, and sometimes a few seeds. Early in the season in the Arctic regions when animal life of all kinds is scarce the sanderling is said to subsist on the buds of saxifrage and other plants, as well as bits of moss and algae.

Behavior: I have always loved to walk by the seashore alone with Nature, and especially to tramp for miles over the hard sands of our ocean beaches, where the heaving bosom of the restless sea sends its flood of foaming breakers rolling up the steep slopes, cut into hills and valleys by the action of the waves. From the crest of the beach above or from the lonely sand dimes beyond comes the mellow whistle of the plover, disturbed in his reveries; out over the blue waters a few terns are fitting about or screaming in anxiety for their, now well grown, young perclled on the beach. Flocks of small shore birds hurry past well out over the breakers, flashing light or dark, as they wheel and turn; and high overhead the big gray gulls are circling. But right at our feet is one of the characteristic features of the ocean beach, a little flock of feeding sanderlings, confiding little fellows, apparently unmindful of our presence. They run along ahead of us as fast as we can walk, their little black legs fairly twinkling with rapid motion. They are intent only on picking up their little bits of food and most skillfully avoid the incomrng wave by running up the beach just ahead of it; occasionally a wave overtakes one when it flutters above it; then as the wave recedes they run rapidly down with it, quickly picking up what food they find. If we force them to fly, which they seem reluctant to do, they circle out over the waves and settle on the beach again a short distance ahead of us; by repeating this maneuver again and again they lead us on and on up the beach, until, tired of being disturbed, they finally make a wide circle out over the water around us and alight on the beach far behind us. Their flight is swift, direct, and generally low over the water, with less of the twistings and turnings so common among shore birds. They usually flock by themselves, but are often associated in small numbers with knots, small plovers, or other beach-loving species. When satiated with food or tired of strenuous activity, they retire to the crest of the beach, or the broad sloping sand plains beyond it, to rest and doze or preen their plumage. Here they stand or squat on the sand, often in immense flocks, all facing the wind. Their colors match their surroundings so well that they are not conspicuous and I have often been surprised to see them rise. These large flocks are generally wary and not easily approached. But small parties or single birds feeding along the surf line are very tame and if we sit quietly on the beach, they will often run up quite close to us. Like many other shore birds, they are fond of standing on one leg or even hopping about on it for a long time, as if one leg were missing; often a number of birds will be seen all doing this at the same time, as if playing a sort of game; but if we watch them long enough, the other leg will come down, for they are not cripples.

Voice: J. T. Nichols writes to me of the limited vocabulary of this bird, as follows:

The note of the sanderling Is a soft ket, ket, ket, uttered singly or in series somewhat querulous in tone. It is at times used in taking wing, also with variations In the conversational twittering of a feeding flock. The. sanderling Is a rather silent bird at all times and seems to have a comparatively limited vocabulary.

Field Marks: The sanderling is well named “whitey” or “whiting,” for the large amount of white in its plumage, particularly in late summer, fall, and winter, is one of its best field marks. In winter it appears to be nearly all white while on the ground, against which the stiff black legs, the rather heavy black bill and a dark area at the bend of the wing stand out in sharp contrast.. In flight the broad white stripe in the wing, contrasted with black, is diagnostic; and the tail appears white, or nearly so, with a dark center. Young birds in the fall can be recognized by the mottled black and white back. Its foot prints in the sand are recognizable, as well as the probings made by its bill.

Fall: Mr. Manniche (1910) observed the flocking of the young sanderlings in Greenland, during August, prior to their departure about the end of that month; he writes:

The flocks of sanderlings every day increase in size till they culminate about August 20th. August 21st, 1006, I met on the shore at Hvalrosodden with a flock numbering at least 300 sanderllngs. I walked there toward evening and, as the weather was unusualy fine, the birds were very lively; the Imposingly large flock of birds executed evolutions in the air with incredible dexterity, now scattered and then in a compact column, now very high in the air and then close to the glassy level of the sea.

The first adults reach Massachusetts in July and are common or abundant during the latter part of that month and through August. The earlier arrivals are in worn spring plumage, but all stages of body molt are seen during their stay with us. The young birds come along in the latter part of August and are most abundant in September and October, after the adults have gone. The earlier migrants are generally in small flocks or little groups, but the late storms often bring along immense flocks, which settle on the beaches in dense masses or sweep along between the crests of the waves in great clouds.

The sanderling is a common migrant, sometimes abundant, throughout the interior east of the Rocky Mountains, coming along at about the same dates as on the Atlantic coast. Prof. William Rowan tells me of a bird he shot in Alberta on November 8, 1902, that was feeding with a Baird sandpiper ‘~on the ice of a completely frozen lake.” It is a common migrant on the Pacific coast at about the same dates as elsewhere. D. E. Brown (notes) records it at Grays Harbor, Washington, as late as December 20, 1917.

Game: In the old days, before the shooting of small shore birds was prohibited by law, sanderlings ranked as game birds amoxag the beach gunners. They were popular because they were so abundant and so tame that they could be shot in large numbers, especially when flying in large flocks. They are exceedingly fat in the fall and are delicious to eat. A favorite method of shooting them was to dig a hole in the sand of the beach, as near the water as practicable, in which the gunner could hide and shoot into the flocks as they flew by. Dr. Charles W. Townsend (1905) tells of a man who, in 1872, “saw two baskets, each holding half a bushel and rounded full of these birds,” shot by one man between tides.

Win tei: The winter home of the sanderling is extensive. A few birds sometimes spend the winter as far north as Massachusetts. They are common on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from North Carolino southward, as well as on the Pacific coast up to central California at least. From these northern points the winter range extends southward to central Argentina and Chile, and even farther south. On the west coast of Florida, where I spent the winter of 1924: 25, sanderlings were common all winter, associating with redbacked sandpipers and other small waders on the extensive sand flats, or with knots and piping plovers on the beaches. It was interesting to note how tame they were on the protected bathing beaches and how wild they were elsewhere.

Range: Cosmopolitan; breeding in Arctic or subarctic regions and wintering mainly south of 40 degrees north latitude.

Breeding range: In North America the breeding range of the sanderling extends mirth to Alaska (Point Barrow); northern Franklin (Price of Wales Strait, Bay of Mercy, and probably Winter Harbor); northern Grant Land (Floeberg Beach); Grinnell Land; northern Greenland (Thank God Harbor, Stormkap, and Shannon Island); and perhaps Iceland (Mickla Island). East to Iceland (Mickla Island); southern Greenland (Glacier Valley and Godthaab); and eastern Franklin (Igloolik and Winter Island). South to Franklin (Winter Island); Keewatin (Cape Fullerton); Mackenzie (Bernard Harbor and Franklin Bay); and Alaska (probably Barter Island and Point Barrow). West to Alaska (Point Barrow).

Wirter range: In the Western Hemisphere the sanderling ranges in winter north to: Washington (Dungeness Spit and Smith Island); southeastern California (Salton Sea); Texas (Corpus Christi, Aransas River, Refugio County, and Galveston); Louisiana (State Game Preserve); western Florida (probably Pensacola and Bagdad); and rarely Massachusetts (Plymouth County). East to rarely Massachusetts (Harvard, Dennis, Muskeget Island, and Nantucket); rarely New York (Long Beach); rarely New Jersey (Long Beach and Cape May); Virginia (Virginia Beach and Cobb Island); North Carolina (Pea Island, Cape Hatteras, and Fort Macon); Bermuda; South Carolina (Mount Pleasant and Frogmore); Georgia (Savannah and Darien); Florida (Amelia Island, Seabreeze, Mosquito Inlet, and Key West) ; Bahama Islands (Andros, Watling, and Fortune Islands); Jamaica; Lesser Antilles (probably Barbados); Brazil (Cajetuba Island and Iguape); and Argentina (Misiones, San Vicente, and Tombo Point). South to Argentina (Tombo Point); and Chile (Coquimbo Bay). West to Chile (Coquimbo Bay); Peru (mouth of the Tambo River and Chorillos); Ecuador (Santa Elena); Galapagos Islands (Bindloe and Albemarle Islands); probably Colombia (Carthagena). Vera Cruz (Barra de Santecomapan); Lower California (San Jose del Cabo, Santa Margarita Island, San Cristobal Bay, and Cedros Island); California (San Diego, San Clemente Island, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Bolinas, and Point Reyes); Oregon (Netarts Bay); and Washington (Grays Harbor and Dungeness Spit).

Spring migration: Early dates of arrival in the spring are: Maine, Augusta, April 11, and Saco, May 5; Franklin, Bay of Mercy, June 3, Prince of Wales Strait, June 7, Walker Bay, June 9, Winter Island, June 10, and Igloolik, June 16; Greenland, coast at about 72 degrees latitude, May 29, Cape Union, June 5; Kentucky, Bowling Green, May 1; Missouri, Kansas City, April 30; Illinois, Chicago, May 10; Ohio, Oberlin, April 6, Lakeside, April 17, and Columbus, May 10; Michigan, Detroit, May 16; Ontario, London, May 13, and Toronto, May 20; Minnesota, Goodhue, April 20; eastern Nebraska, Alliance, April 6; South Dakota, Vermilion, April 29; North Dakota, Harrisburg, May 20; Manitoba, Oak Lake, May 5; Saskatchewan, Orestwynd, May 23; Mackenzie, Fort Simpson May 29; Colorado, Loveland, May 12, and near Denver, May 16; Wyoming, Lake Como, May 5, and Laramie, May 15; Alberta, Edmonton, April 29, and Fort Chipewyan, June 7; and Alaska, mouth of the Yukon River, May 10.

Late dates of spring departure are: Georgia, Cumberland, April 14; South Carolina, Sea Islands, April 23; North Carolina, Fort Macon, May 17, and Cape Hattcras, May 20; Virginia, Smiths Island, May 22, and Cobb Island, June 6; New Jersey, Cape May, June 13; New York, New York City, May 30, Geneva, June 3, and Sing Sing, June 5; Connecticut, Fairfield, May 31; Massachusetts, Harvard, June 4, Dennis, June 7, and Monomoy Island, June 27; Maine, Scarboro, May 30; Quebec, Quebec City, May 27, and Montreal, June 1; Kentucky, Bowling Green, May 22; Illinois, Waukegan, May 24, and Chicago, May 26; Ohio, Painesville, May 28, and Youngstown, June 2; Michigan, Detroit, May 28; Ontario, Point Pelee, June 1, Toronto, June 2, and Brighton, June 19; Iowa, Emmetsburg, May 25; Wisconsin, Madison, May 23; Minnesota, Walker, June 10; Texas, Point Isabel, May 3, and Corpus Christi, May 22; eastern Nebraska, Lincoln, May 21; South Dakota, Yankton, June 1; Manitoba, Lake Winnipeg, June 8, Shoal Lake, June 8, and Lake Manitoba, June 12; Saskatchewan, Hay Lake, June 9, and Quill Lake, June 10; Colorado, Denver, May 31; California, Santa Barbara, May 26; San Nicholas Island, May 30, Hyperion, May 31, and Redondo, June 4; and Washington, Quillayute Needles, May 30.

Fall migration: Early dates of arrival in the fall are: British Colmnbia, Okanagan Landing, July 25, and Comox, August 15; Washington, Dungeness Spit, August 18, Clallarn Bay, August 22, and Tacoma, August 23; California, Santa Barbara, July 29; Alberta, Strathmore, July 31; Montana, Flathead Lake, August 29; Saskatchewan, Big Stick Lake, July 19; Manitoba, Victoria Beach, July 11, Shoal Lake, August 8, and Oak Lake, August 17; South Dakota, Pine Ridge Reservation, July 12; eastern Nebraska, Lincoln, August 22; Texas, Tivoli, August 3, Brownsville, August 15, and Padre Island, August 21; Ontario, Toronto, July 16, and Ottawa, August 14; Michigan, Charity Island, July 19; Ohio, Lakeside, July 11, Cedar Point, July 21, and Painesville, July 25; Indiana, Millers, August 1; Illinois, Chicago, July 24; Massachusetts, Monomoy Island, July 1, Marthas Vineyard, July 8, and Dennis, July 12; New York, Brooklyn, July 6, Montauk Point, July 20, and Rochester, July 23; New Jersey, Cape May, July 20; Pennsylvania, Erie, July 27; Virginia, Chincoteague, August 1; North Carolina, Church’s Island, July 29; South Carolina, Mount Pleasant, July 14; Florida, Bradentown, July 12, Pensacola, July 19, Fernandina, July 21, and Daytona Beach, July 28; Jamaica, Spanishtown, August 20; and Lesser Antilles, St. Croix, September 13.

Late dates of fall departure are: Alaska, Demarcation Point, August 30, Mackenzie, Fort Franklin, September 16; Alberta, Beaverhill Lake, November 8; Colorado, Loveland, September 30, and Pueblo, October 1; Manitoba, Margaret, October 20, and Lake Manitoba, November 7; North Dakota, Graft on, September 14; Nebraska, Lincoln, October 4; Wisconsin, Lake Mills, October 3; Iowa, Burlington, October 15, and National, October 29; Ontario, Kingston, October 15, Point Pelee, October 16, and Ottawa, October 22; Michigan, Ann Arbor, October 26, Portage Lake, November 5~ and Forestville, November 24; Ohio, Cedar Point, October 21, Lakeside, October 29, and Columbus, November 7; Illinois, LaGrange, October 29, and Chicago, November 3; Franklin, Bay of Mercy, August 30; Prince Edward Island, North River, October 30; Quebec, Quebec City, November 12; and Maine, Portland, November 25.

Casual records: In spite of its wide distribution the sanderling is not frequently detected outside of its normal range. Although but a short distance from the coast, there are only five records for the vicinity of Washington, D. C. (September, 1874, October 24, 1885, September 22, 1894, September 26: 30, 1898, and September 27, 1898). It has been taken once in Kansas (Lawrence, October 7, 1874). There also is a record for the Hawaiian Islands (Hauai in October, 1900) and one in Haiti (Gaspar Hernandez, March 4, 1916).

Egg dates: Greenland: six records, June 29 to July 7. Grinneil Land: one record, June 24. Arctic Canada: two records, June 18 and 29.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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