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Solitary Sandpiper

A medium-sized shorebird species found in North and South America. Despite its name, it is not a solitary bird and can often be found in small groups or pairs during breeding season. It is identified by its distinctive eye-ring and white-spotted upperparts, contrasting with its plain white underparts.

The Solitary Sandpiper migrates a considerable distance each spring and fall, and can be seen at least occasionally over most of North America wherever suitable shorebird habitat exists. Solitary Sandpipers are primarily nocturnal migrants, and can migrate either over land or over the ocean.

Solitary Sandpipers usually live up to their name, and are rarely seen in flocks. Their remote breeding grounds mean they seldom encounter humans, and are relatively tame and not easily spooked. Much of their breeding ecology remains unknown because of the difficulty in visiting their remote nesting grounds.


Description of the Solitary Sandpiper


The Solitary Sandpiper is a medium sized shorebird with greenish legs, dark upperparts speckled with white, and a grayish-brown streaked head and neck with a white eye ring.  Length: 8 in.  Wingspan: 22 in.

Solitary Sandpiper

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.


The sexes are similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

Winter birds are duller with less white in the upperparts.


Juveniles have darker upperparts than adults, and a plainer head and neck.


Solitary Sandpipers inhabit ponds, marshes, and streamsides.


Solitary Sandpipers eat insects and small crustaceans.

Solitary Sandpiper

Photograph © Greg Lavaty.


Solitary Sandpipers forage by gleaning from the surface of the water, or in mud.


Solitary Sandpipers breed from Alaska across southern Canada to the Atlantic Coast. They winter south of the U.S. The population is not well measured, but may be stable.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Solitary Sandpiper.


Fun Facts

Solitary Sandpipers usually live up to their name, being seen alone most often, though sometimes in small groups.

When Solitary Sandpipers land, they hold their wings up momentarily.


Vocalizations consist of a whistled “peet-weet”.

Similar Species

  • Lesser Yellowlegs
    The white eye ring and shorter, duller legs distinguish Solitary Sandpipers from yellowlegs.


The Solitary Sandpiper nests in the nest of another species, such as a jay, a robin, or a kingbird.

Number: Usually lay 4-5 eggs.
Color: Buffy with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 23-24 days, and leave the nest shortly after hatching, though associating with the adults for some time.

Bent Life History of the Solitary Sandpiper

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 Solitary Sandpiper – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.


This dainty “woodland tattler” is associated in my mind with some secluded, shady woodland pool in early autumn, where the summer drought has exposed broad muddy shores and where the brightly tinted leaves of the swamp maple float lightly on the still water. Here the solitary wader may be seen, gracefully poised on some fallen log, nodding serenely, or walking gracefully over the mud or in the shallow water. Seldom disturbed by man, it hardly seems to heed his presence; it may raise its wings, displaying their pretty linings, or it may flit lightly away to the other side of the pool, with a few sharp notes of protest and a flash of white in its tail. I have often seen it in other places where one would not expect to find shore birds, such as the muddy banks of a sluggish stream, somewhat polluted with sewage, which flows back of my garden in the center of the city, or some barnyard mud puddle, reeking with the filth of cattle; perhaps it is attracted to such unsavory places by the swarms of flies that it finds there.

Spring: The solitary sandpiper arrives in the United States during the latter part of March, but it makes slow progress northward, for it does not reach New England until May. We generally see it singly, in pairs, or in small numbers, but according to William Brewster (1925) it sometimes occurs in favorable localities, near Umbagog Lake, Maine, in large numbers; he writes:

According to an entry in my Journal I saw them there literally in “swarms” on May 20, 1880, when, as we advanced by way of the river in a boat, they were ceaselessly rising and flitting on ahead, uttering their peet-weet calls, and also making a faint yet noticeable rustling sound with their wings. Thus driven they sometimes alighted, one after another, on some muddy point, until as many as seven assembled within the space of a few square feet. Nevertheless, they were for the most part paired, and the mated birds almost invariably kept together, and apart from all the rest when on wing.

The migration in the interior seems to be at least two or three weeks earlier. E. W. Hadeler tells me that in. Lake County, Ohio, one is almost sure to find it, on the river where the sewer empties into it, between April 22 and May 18. Many must pass through the inland States in April, for Edward S. Thomas has recorded it in Ohio as early as March 30 and calls the average date of arrival April 15. A. G. Lawrence has recorded it in southern Manitoba as early as April 29 and it reaches its northernmost breeding grounds in Mackenzie and Alaska soon after the middle of May.

Courtship: Dr. John B. May has sent me the following notes on a courtship display of this species which he saw in New Hampshire:

Paddling down river one day, probably between the 8th and 15th of June, I saw several pairs of solitary and spotted sandpipers ~vhere the muddy banks were exposed, near a swamp where bitterns breed. noth species were apparently courting, making considerable noise and showing their white feathers in display. Every little while one of the solitary snndpipers would fly up slowly Into the air, only rising a few feet, and rising slowly with rapidly heating or quivering wings, giving a twittering whistle and spreading the tall so that the outer white feathers were very conspicuous. Then It would drop back to the mud again near where it rose. The time taken in rising a few feet would have carried it some distance with its ordinary flight.

Nesting: The nesting habits of this sandpiper long remained a mystery or were misunderstood. In looking over the literature on the subject I came across no less than seven published records of nests found on the ground and said to be positively identified as this species. These were all published prior to the discovery of the now well-known habit of nesting in the deserted nests of passerine birds. Not a single one of these records seems to be substantiated by an available specimen of the parent bird. The solitary sandpiper may occasionally nest on the ground, but it is yet to be proven.

To Evan Thomson belongs the credit for making the interesting discovery of the tree-nesting habit. This historic incident is de- scribed by J. Fletcher Street (1923) as follows:

Mr. Thomson many years ago took up a quarter section of land under the Canadian homestead act, built himself a log cabin at the edge of a muskeg, and commenced the arduous task of clearing the iand. Living alone In this wilderness without neighbors and possessing a keen love for nature and a particular interest in the abundant wild life about him, he came to devote his spare moments to the study of birds, counting as his immediate associates such hermit species as the great-horned owl, long-eared owl, saw-whet owl, goshawk, and a large host of water fowl and waders. Seated one day before his cabin he noticed a bird fly to a low tamarack and enter a nest. It was ostensibly one of the waders, and great was his surprise upon examining the nest to find it the structure of a robin. It contained four beautiful eggs, greenish white in ground color and heavily spotted and blotched with reddish brown. Thus, on June 16, 1903, the first authentic eggs of the solitary sand- piper were taken but It was not until a year later that the identity of the bird was definitely established. It was indeed interesting, 20 years later, to be shown the cabin and to view the original tree from which the eggs were collected. Subsequent to the finding of this nest many others have been located, the bird evidencing no particular choice of nest in which to deposit its eggs, the list including those of the bronzed grackle, Brewer’s bl&ckbird, cedar waxwing, kingbird, robin, and Canada Jay. These have been found at an elevation as low as 4 feet and as high as 40 and in locations contiguous to water and as far away as 200 yards.

Walter Raine (1904), for..whom Mr. Thomson was collecting eggs at the time, was the first to publish the important news, but he waited a year until another nest was found and the parent bird shot. The following year, 1904, Mr. Thomson found two more nests and shot the parent bird from the last one. Mr. Raine (1904) then published a full account of all three nests, each of which contained four eggs. The first nest, taken June 16, 1903, was “an old nest of the American robin, built 15 feet up in a tamarack tree, that was growing in the middle of a large muskeg, dotted with tamaracks.” The second was found on June 9, 1904, an old “nest of a bronzed grackle, built in a low tree.” The third set was taken on June 24, 1904, and the parent bird was shot, as she flew from “the nest of a cedar waxwing, which was built in a small spruce tree growing in a swamp, the nest being about 5 feet from the water.” Since then numerous other nests have been found in similar situations. A. D. Henderson (1923) reported a nest¶found in 1914, about a “dozen feet up in a poplar tree,” and on June 7, 1922, a set of eggs was talien for him, with the parent, by a young friend:

The nest was in a white birch tree, growing at the edge of the timber, on the shore of a small lake, and about 150 yards from his home. A brood of young robins had been raised in it last season, he told me. It was about 18 feet from the ground and a typical robin’s nest, of grass and mud. The Inside lining of grass was gone and the eggs lay in the bare mud cup, no material being added by the sandpiper, which I identified as the eastern form of the bird.

Mr. Henderson and Richard C. Harlow took a set of four fresh eggs on May 30, 1923, near Belvedere, Alberta, from an old robin’s nest 10 feet up in a scrubby spruce, 30 feet high, on the muskeg border of a swampy lake. A nest found by Messrs. Street (1923) and Stuart, near Red Lodge, Alberta, on May 29, 1923, was also an old robin’s nest only 4 feet from the ground in an 8-foot spruce, in a muskeg surrounded by spruces and tamaracks.

Mr. Henderson tells me that he thinks he now understands the nesting habits of this species more thoroughly, for he has found five sets of eggs this season, 1927. He says:

The principal breeding place seems to be around small lakes or ponds In muskegs; and the bird they are chiefly associated with is the rusty blackbird, which also breeds among the same surroundings, aud whose nests are as suit- able for the solitary sandpiper as are those of the robin. A few breed around lakes and slougha, away from the muskegs, but the main body is in the muskeg country associated with the rusty blackbird.

Eggs: The solitary sandpiper lays almost invariably four eggs; I believe there is only one set of live recorded. They are ovate pyriform in shape, with a slight gloss, and the shell is very fragile. There are two distinct types of ground color , green and buff. These two types are well illustrated by the Rev. F. C. R. Jourdain (1907) m an excellent colored plate. In the green type the ground colors vary from “pale glaucous green,~~ or ” pale turtle gre~n~~~ to greenish white; and in the buff type, from “cream buff” to “cartridge buff.” They are rather thickly spotted and blotched with irregular markings, usually more thickly about the larger end, where the spots are some- times confluent. The underlying spots and blotches in various shades of “purple drab” and “heliotrope gray” are often quite conspicuous. Over these the eggs are boldly marked with dark rich browns, “claret brown,” “liver brown,” “bay” and “chocolate,” or even darker colors where the pigment is thickest. One beautiful egg, figured by Mr. Jourdain (1907), has a “pale glaucous green” ground color, with only two blotches of very dark brown near the larger end, heavily splashed elsewhere with “pallid purple drab,” and sparingly peppered with light brown. The measurements of 68 eggs average 36 by 25.5 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 38.5 by 27, 33.7 by 23.8 and 36.1 by 23.6 millimeters.

Plumages: 1 have never seen this species in natal down, but Ora W’. Knight (1908) says that “the downy young are a general grayish buff above with darker suffusions on the back; a darker line through each eye from bill to nape; darkish crown line; below white with slight dusky suffusion on flanks.”

Young birds in juvenal plumage are grayish brown above, lighter and more olivaceous than in adults, and thickly spotted with white or huffy white; the sides of the head and neck are grayish, indistinctly streaked with dusky on the neck. A partial postjuvenal molt occurs in the fall producing a first winter plumage, in which young birds may be distinguished by retained juvenal wing coverts. Young birds are also more profusely spotted on the upper parts and less distinctly streaked on the neck and breast than adults. At the first prenuptial molt, the following spring, the young bird becomes practically adult.

Adults have a partial prenuptial molt, between February and May, involving the body plumage, the tail and some scapulars, wing coy- erts, and tertials. The complete postnuptial molt begins in July with the change of the body plumage and may last through September, but the primaries are not molted until the winter months, December to February. The winter plumage is similar to the nuptial, but the upper parts are grayer and less distinctly spotted; the neck and chest are only very indistinctly streaked with grayish.

Food: Dr. Elliott Coues (1874) has described the feeding habits of solitary sandpipers so well that I can not do better than to quote his words, as follows:

They differ from most of their relatives in their choice of feeding grounds or of places where they usually alight to rest while migrating; a difference accompanied, I suppose, by a corresponding modification in diet. Their favorite resorts are the margins of small, stagnant pools, fringed with rank grass and weeds; the miry, tide-water ditches that intersect marshes; and the soft, oozy depressions in low meadows and water snvannas. They frequent also the interior of woods not too thick and collect there about the rain puddles, the water of which is delayed In sinking by the matted layer of decaying leaves that covers the ground. After heavy rains I have seen them running about like grass plovers on open, level commons, covered only with short turf. They also have a fancy, shared by few birds except the titlarks, for the pools of liquid manure usually found In some out of the way place upon the thrifty farmer’s premises. They find abundant food In all these places, aquatic insects of all sorts, and especially their curious larvae, worms, grubs, and perhaps the smallest sorts of molluscs; with all these they also take Into their gizzards a quantity of sand and gravel, to help along the grinding process. With food to be had in such plenty with little labor the birds become, particularly in the fall, extremely fat.

Edward II. Forbush (1912) says:

In the fall, on its return from the north, it has a habit of wading into the water in stagnant ditches or ponds, where it advances one foot at a time, and by rapidly moving the forward foot stirs up the vegetation at the bottom ever so slightly. This motion is so swift and delicate that the leg seems to be merely trembling, as if the bird were chilled by contact with the water, but it is done with Intent to disturb insects among the algae at the bottom without roiling the water, and the eager bird, leaning forward, plunges in its bill and head, sometimes to the eyes, and catches the alarmed water insects as they dart away. I have watched this carefully with a glass while lying in the grass only 10 or 12 feet from the bird. It is easy by stirring the bottom slightly with a stick to cause a similar movement of the water insects, but I never could agitate it so delicately as to avoid clouding the water with sediment from the bottom.

Giraud (1844) says that “on the wing it is very active, and is sometimes seen darting after winged insects, which it is expert in catching.” Other observers have noted in its food various insects and their larvae, dragon-fly nymphs, water-scavenger beetles, water boatmen, grasshoppers, caterpillars, spiders, worms, small crustaceans, and small frogs.

Behavior: The Solitary sandpiper is always light, graceful, and dainty in all its movements. In spite of the unsavory places in which it often feeds, its trim figure is always neat and clean. In flight it is light and airy as it flits away for a short distance, only to alight again and lift its prettily lined wings high above its back before fold- ing them. It flies higher than the spotted sandpiper and more swiftly, often in a zigzag manner, a trick probably learned by dodg- ing branches in the ivoods, and the wings are raised well above the body on the upward stroke.

Walter H. Rich (1907) says:

There is scarcely another bird which flies with so little apparent effort His strokes are slow and regular, a short sailing bet~veen each motion, hut he moves very fast. Let him he alarmed and he will quicken his speed until he seems only a black streak in the air, and as he rises to top the surrounding trees it needs good and quick work with the gun to stop him.

It frequently indulges in a peculiar tilting and nodding habit, similar to that of the spotted sandpiper, but it is more deliberate and not so pronounced; it seems to be more of a bow than a tip-up more like the bobbing of the yellowlegs. It moves about rather sluggishly, wading in shallow water or even standing motionless, where its colors blend into its dark background and make it difficult to see. If it wades beyond its depth, it swims readily and can even dive to escape its enemies. John T. Nichols says in his notes:

In feeding it frequently lowers the head with a drilling motion, especially when immersing its bill in the water, apparently probing in the mud at such times, whereas as a rule our tattlers feed by snatching. It frequently stops to scratch Its head with one foot. When bathing it ducks and splashes and sits In the water soaking, and at the conclusion of the bath, trips out onto the mud, raises the wings once or twice, and preens itself thoroughly. I have seen a solitary, alighted in a pool on the marsh, preening Its feathers without dipping its bill in the water, and am not aware whether it has this bill-dipping habit common with some of its relatives.

Harrison F. Lewis has sent me the following notes on the rather peculiar behavior of a solitary sandpiper which he watched for some time:

The sandpiper, which was well aware that I was watching It, stepped slowly out onto the open surface of the mud of the bog, and, standing there with Its left side toward me, repeated several times the following curious actions. It spread Its wings about halfway, holding them stiffly in the plane of its back, neither raised nor lowered, so that the dark markings on its axillards were slightly visible. At the same time it drew Its head as far back- ward and its tall as far forward over its back as possible, and slowly lowered Its breast until It almost seemed to touch the mud. After remaining rigid In this position for 10 to 15 seconds, it would suddenly relax and become its normal self, only to repent the entire procedure almost immediately. I could think of no purpose for these actions, unless they were an attempt at concealment by making the bird’s outlines and colors as unlike as possible to those normally to be expected in a sandpiper. Although it did not conceal itself from me by this means, it made itself appear extremely unlike a bird.

Solitary sandpipers are usually very tame and unsuspicious, often to the verge of stupidity, as tile following incident, related by Doctor Coues (1874) well illustrates:

Once coming up to a fence that went past a little pool, and peeping through the slats, I saw eight tattlers of this species wading about In the shallow water, searching for food. I pulled trigger on one; the others set up a simultaneous outcry, and I expected them, of course, to fly off, but they presently quieted down and began feeding again. Without moving from my place, I fired three times more, killing a single bird at each discharge; still no effect upon the survivors, except as before. Then I climbed over the fence, and stood in full view of the four remaining birds; they merely flapped to the further side of the pool, and stood still looking at me, nodding away, as if agreed that the whole thing was very singular. I stood and deliberately loaded and fired three times more, taking one bird each time; and it was only as I was ramming aaolber charge, that the sole surviving bird concluded to make off, which he did, I will add in justice to his wits, in a great harry.

Mr. Brewster (1925) says:

Not less confiding than sluggish, they will usually allow a man to approach in the open to within less than a dozen yards, and sometimes he may almost lay his hands on young nnd inexperienced birds, while several of these may con tinue to gaze at him with obviously serene unconcern immediately after he has discharged his gun directly over their heads. There are times, however, espe cially in calm weather, when the report of a gun, or the sound of one’s paddle striking against the side of a boat, will instantly startle all the solitary sand pipers within 20 rods, causing them to rise on wing with loud outcries, and to fly off singly, in various directions, to more or less distant places. In summer and autumn they invariably act thus independently of one another when flushed, and also when engaged in feeding, although by no means averse to assembling rather numerously where food is especially plentiful or easily obtained.

Voice: Mr. Nichols has described this very satisfactorily, in his notes, as follows:

The ordinary notes of the solitary sandpiper are very close to those of the spotted, but probably al~vays differentiable. They are sharper, cleaner cut, less variable. The full-flight note is a sharp piping peep weep weep, more often three than two syllabled when a bird is definitely leaving a locality, or by wan dering birds which ordinarily fly high. In birds flushed on, or making longer or shorter flights to different parts of the same marsh where they were living, the same note was usually double peep weep, rarely single.

A quite dissimilar call, less frequently heard, is a fine pit pit pit, or oft Ut. This may have no significance other than being a reduction of the preceding, when the bird is less definitely on the wing, but seems to depend on their being another individual fairly close by. There is likely homology between it and the short flocking call of the lesser yellowlegs, and if correctly determined, a certain analogy thereto is also established, perhaps as much as possible with this non social species. Of similar quality was a peculiar kikiki7ci from one of two birds in company which came to decoys nicely, as they went on past my rig without alighting.

A third kind of note, Isolated pips, suggesting the call of the water thrush, Is expressive of excitement when a bird is on the ground, as when just alighted.

Field marks: The field characters are also well described by Mr. Nichols, as follows:

In flight the under surface of the solitary sandpiper’s wings appears blackish. Birds on the ground not infrequently raise the wings over the back, displaying this mark to advantage. Its tail, spread when about to alight, appears white with a contrasting dark center. When traveling in the air its flight is either swift and darting or else resembles that of a yellowlegs, a little jerkier. When about to alight It usually drops down abruptly, much as the Wilson’s snipe does; and when flying only a few yards It has a peculiar jerky flight with wings partially spread. On the ground it looks much like a yallowlegs, but Is darker, smaller, and stands relatively lower. Its legs are olive green; very rarely an individual in spring has quite yellow legs.

Fall: The fall migration of the solitary sandpiper is a general southward movement all across the continent, performed in a lei surely manner. The earliest birds, probably adults, reach New England in July; and late birds, probably young, linger through October. Mr. Brewster (1925) says:

On August 2, 1873, I saw fully 100 along the Androscoggin River between the lake and Errol Dam, and almost as many more, a few hours later, while going up the Magalloway River some 7 or 8 miles. At that date in almost ~ny year there Is, throughout the whole Umbagog region, almost no muddy shore of pond, lake, river, lagoon, or brook, whether open to the sun or densely shaded by overhanging foliage, which is not frequented by one or more solitary sandplpers. Hence we may safely assume that in the region at large they are regularly present In far greater numbers durink August than at any other time of year.

When with us in the fall they are more likely to be seen on open meadows or salt marshes than they are in the spring, often in com pany with lesser yellowlegs. Mr. Nichols writes to mc:

In the first half of August, 1919, this species was unusually plentiful, living on the bay marsh at Mastic, Long Island, with maximum numbers August 9 to 10. The birds frequented the larger bits of flooded dead marsh that yellowlegs love and were also found in smaller, less open, pools more overshadowed by grass. On August 16 and 17 two birds were also repeatedly found feeding on patches of weed matted at the surface of an adjacent creek, exceedingly tame. The presence of these solitary sandpipers on a coastal marsh may have been dire to conditions of high-water level prevailing at the time, flooding the muddy borders of inland pools where they are ordinarily to be looked for.

Capt. Savile G. Reid (1884) says that in Bermuda “they generally come with the other species in August. They soon betake themselves to the wooded swamps, where they may be found singly or in pairs throughout the autumn.”

On the Pacific coast both races of the solitary sandpiper occur regu larly on the fall migration, but the western race is undoubtedly much commoner and is supposed by some to be the only race found west of the Rocky Mountains. The migration occurs mainly in August and early September. J. A. Munro tells me that he gets both forms regularly at Okanagan Landing, British Columbia.

Winter: A few birds may spend the winter in the West Indies, but the main winter home of the species is in South America. The distribution of the two forms in winter is not well understood and probably both races are more or less mixed. W. H. Hudson (1920) writes:

I was once pleased and much amused to discover in a small, sequestered pool in a wood, well sheltered from sight by trees and aquatic plants, a solitary sandpiper living in company with a blue bittern. The bittern patiently watched for small fishes and when not fishing dozed on a low branch overhanging the water, while its companion ran briskly along the margin snatching up minute insects from the water. When disturbed they rose together, the bittern with its harsh, grating screnm, the sandpiper daintily piping its fine, bright notes: a wonderful contrast! Every time I visited the pool afterwards I found these two hermits, one so sedate in manner the other so lively, living peacefully together. DI5ThIBtJTIoN

Range: North America chiefly east of the Rocky Mountains ~o South America.

Breeding range: The only unquestioned eggs of the solitary sand piper that have been collected have come from Alberta where it is known to breed from the northern part south as far as Stony Plain and Red Lodge. A pair of adult birds with young also wcre collected in 1921, 30 miles below Fort Simpson, Mackenzie (Williams, 1922), while the same observer found them common in the vicinity of Fort Norman, Mackenzie, as late as August 14.

It has been reported breeding as far south as Iowa (Keokuk and Winneshiek Counties); Ohio (Columbus); and Pennsylvania (Pocono Mountain and Beaver); and east to New Hampshire (Isle of Shoals, Franconia, and Appledore; Maine (Penobseot and Aroostook Counties); and Quebec (Lake Mistassinni and Godbout). The circumstances attendant upon each of these and intermediate cases are such as to cause doubts concerning their authenticity, although it seems probable that the species did (and possibly still does) breed somewhere in eastern North America.

Winter range: The solitary sandpipers wintering in South America have been determined subspecifically only on a few occasions, so it should be understood that the following outline includes both solitarict and cinnainomea. Specimens collected in Colombia by Chap man and Todd all prove to be sotitaria, while Chapman obtained both races in Ecuador.

The winter range of the species extends north to Vera Cruz (Playa Vicente); rarely Florida (probably Pensacola, probably Waukeenah, Sevenoaks, and Safety Harbor); rarely Georgia (Chat ham County); probably the Bahama Islands (Inagua); Jamaica; and Porto Rico. East to Porto Rico; eastern Venezuela (mouth of the Orinoco River) ; British Guiana (Bartica) ; Dutch Guiana (Surinam and Maroni River); French Guiana (Cayenne); Brazil (Mixiana, Para, Chapada, Urucuja, and Pitanguy); Paraguay (Co lonia Risso); Uruguay (Rocha, Montevideo, and Colonia); and Argentina (Buenos Aires and Azul). South to Argentina (Azul and Cordoba). West to Argentina (Cordoba, Tucuman, Salta, and Oran); Bolivia (Caiza); Peru (Chorillos, Cajabamba., and Turn bez); Ecuador (Guayaquil and Quite); Colombia (Cali, Novita, Medellin, Puerto Berrio, and Santa Marta); Costa Rica (San Jose); Guatemala (Los Amates and Duenas); Yucatan (Tabi); and Vera Cruz (Playa Vicente).’

Spring migration: Early dates of arrival in the spring migration are: South Carolina, Charleston, March 27, and Aiken, March 30; North Carolina, Raleigh, April 4, and Weaverville, April 9; District of Columbia, Washington, March 30; Pennsylvania, State College, April 14, Sewickley, April 15, and Doylestown, April 16; New Jer sey, Dead River, April 18; New York, York, April 18, Ithaca, April 20, and New York City, April 21; Connecticut, Litchfield, April 27, and New Haven, April 29; Massachusetts, Northampton, April 25, Melrose, April 26, and Fitchburg, April 28; Vermont, Randolph, April 26, Bennington, May 4, and Wells River, May 6; New Hampshire, Manchester, April 26, and Monadnock, May 11; Maine, Orono, May 3, Pittsfield, May 6, and Waterville, May 7; Quebec, Quebec, May 1, and Godhout, May 4; Mississippi, Bay St. Louis, March 17, and Biloxi, March 25; Louisiana, Hester, March 16; Arkansas, Monticello, March 24, and Tillar, March 31; Tennessee, Nashville, April 7; Kentucky, Bowling Green, April 8, and Russell yule, April 9; Missouri, Jonesburg, March 19, and Monteer, April 6; Illinois, Rantoul, March 24, Danville, April 2, and Chicago, April 7; Indiana, Frankfort, March 15, Indianapolis. March 17, and Delhi, March 28; Ohio, Oberlin, March 28, Sandusky, March 31, and Scio, April 7; Michigan, Ann Arbor, April 23, Hillsdale, April 24, and Portage Lake, April 30; Ontario, Toronto, March 16, London, April 28, and Ottawa, May 2; Iowa, Hillsboro, April 10, National, April 14, and Sigourney, April 20; Wisconsin, Beloit., April 24, Milwaukee, April 25, and Madison, April 26; Minnesota, Minneapolis, April 17, Hallock, April 21, and Lanesboro, April 24; Texas, Santa Maria. March 3, Brownsville, March 17, Texas City, March 22, and Boerne, March 25; Kansas, Wichita., March 29, Emporia, April 10, and Independence, April 16; Nebraska, Neligh, April 20, Red Cloud,

The migration dates here given probably include, in many cases, observations and records for both soUtcsia and oia~na,no.mea.

April 25, and Valentine, April 27; South Dakota, Forestburg, April 16, and Huron, May 3; North Dakota, Charlson, April 27, and Bis marck, April 30; Manitoba, Aweme, April 29; Saskatchewan, Wiseton, May 13, and Osler, May 19; and Alberta, Alliance, May 2, Flagstaff, May 4, and Oonoway, May 5.

Late dates of spring departure are Colombia, La Manuelita, April 11, and eastern Santa Marta region, April 18; Costa Rica, San Jose, April 27; Yucatan, Rio Lagartoo, April 13; West Indies, San Domingo, April 27; Cuba, Isle of Pines, May 18; Bahama Islands, Nassau, May 10; Florida, St. Marks, May 10, and Pensacola, May 30; Alabama, Bayou Labatre, May 20, and Autaugaville, May 23; Georgia, Macon, May 10, and Savannah, May 17; South Carolina, Aiken, May 10, Frogmore, May 19. and Mount Pleasant, May 27; North Carolina, Weaverville, May 20, and Raleigh, May 28; Dis trict of Columbia, Washington, May 21; Maryland, Smdy Springs, May 22, and Cumberland, May 23; New Jersey, Camden, May 25, Morristown, June 7, and Bernardsville, June 11; New York, Rhine beck, May 26, Cincinnatus, May 31, and Orient Point, June 6; Con necticut, Norwalk, May 27, and Litchfield, May 31; Rhode Island, Providence, June 3; Massachusetts, Worcester, May 30, Melrose, June 1, and New Boston, June 10; Louisiana, New Orleans, May 6, and Bains, May 12; Mississippi, Ellisville, May 17; Tennessee, Nashville, May 27, and Knoxville, June 12; Kentucky, Bowling Green, May 22; Missouri, St. Louis, May 16, and Monteer, May 20; Illinois, Chicago, May 26, Joliet, May 28, and Rantoul, May 29; Indiana. Goshen, May 24, and Holland, May 30; Ohio. Columbus, June 1, Oberlin, May 28, and Huron, May 29; Michigan, Laurium, May 26, and Detroit, May 30; Ontario, Port Perry, May 27, Toronto, June 3, and Madoc, June 7; Iowa, Sioux City, May 26, Emmetsburg, May 29, and Sioux City, May 30; Wisconsin, Madison, May 27, and La Crosse, May 29; Minnesota, Waseca, May 22, Hallock, May 25, and Minneapolis, May 31; Texas, Gainesville, May 15, Kerrville, May 20, and Hidalgo, May 23; Kansas, Lawrence, May 21, and Topeka, May 22; Nebraska, Valentine, May 20, and Lincoln, May 22; South Dakota, Huron, May 21, Vermilion, May 27, and Forestburg, May 30; North Dakota, Charlson, May 25; Manitoba, Aweme, May 26, Shell River, May 29, and Shoal Lake, June 1; and Saskatchewan, Prince Albert, June 5, and Kutanajan Lake, June 15.

Fall migration: Early dates of arrival in the full migration are: Sashatchewan, Maple Creek, July 6; Manitoba, Margaret, July 8, and Oak Lake, July 19; South Dakota, Sioux Falls, July 1, and Forestburg, July 2; Nebraska, Valentine, July 3; Kansas, Little Blue River, July 22; Texas, Gurley, July 15, Kerrville, July 20, Brownsville, August 2; Minnesota, St. Vincent, July 2, Lanesboro, July 4, and Minneapolis, July 15; Wisconsin, Shiocton, June 30, North Freedom, July 14, and Ladysmith, July 16 Iowa, Marshall town, July 8, Sioux City, July 12, and Hillsboro, July 18; Ontario, Toronto, July 10, and Port Dover, July 13; Michigan, Detroit, July 7, and Charity Island, July 10; Ohio, Columbus, July 3, Wooster, July 8, and Painesville, July 20; Indiana, Sedan, July 15; Illinois, Chicago, July 3, Glen Ellyn, ~July 16, and Port Byron, July 21; Missouri, Monteer, July 29; Kentucky, Bowling Green, July 22; Mississippi, Biloxi, July 12, and Bay St. Louis, July 16; Louisiana, New Orleans, July 9; Massachusetts, Becket, July 8, Harvard, July 12, and Lynn, July 17; Rhode Island, Newport, July 4, and Provi dence, July 11; Connecticut, East Hartford, July 14, and Milford, July 28; New York, Camp Upton, July 8, Rochester, July 12, and Poland, July 15; Maryland, Calverton, July 14, and Cambridge, July 19; District of Columbia, Washington, July 15; North Carolina, Raleigh, July 14; South Carolina, Frogmore, July 24, and Charles ton, July 26; Alabama, Stevenson, July 15, and Leighton, July 17; Florida, Pensacola, July 12, Bradenton, July 12, St. Marks, July 28, and Key West, July 28; Bahama Islands, Fortune Island, August 5; Cuba, Isle of Pines, August 20; Porto Rico, Comerio, July 29; and lesser Antilles, St. Croix, August 5. Late dates of fall departure are: Keewatin, Echimamish River, September 15; Manitoba, Shoal Lake, September 17, and Aweme, October 5; North Dakota, Charison, September 18; South Dakota, Forestburg, September 30; Nebraska, Valentine, October 9, Nebraska City, October 10, and Lincoln, October 20; Minnesota, St. Vincent, September 22, Parkers Prairies, September 30, and Lanesboro, October 4; Wisconsin, Elkhorn, October 10, Delavan, October 20, and Racine, October 30; Iowa, Marshalltown, October 5, and Hills boro, October 20; Ontario, Toronto, October 2, St.. Thomas, October 4, and Ottawa, October 31; Michigan, Detroit, October 1; Ohio, Weymouth, October 14, Austinburg, October 28, and Medina, Novem ber 1; Indiana, Indianapolis, October 15, Richmond, October 28, and Roanoke, November 15; Illinois, Chicago, October 6, La Grange, October 7, and De KaIb, October 10; Missouri, Jaspar City, October 9, and Independence, October 13; Kentucky, Bowling Green, October 11, Versailles, October 21, and Lexington, October 23; Tennessee, Knoxville, October 11, and Nashville, November 4; Quebec, Mon treal, September 27; Maine, Portland, October 6, Pittsfield, October 8, and Hebron, October 20; New Hampshire, Tilton, September 29, Lancaster, October 5, and Errol, October 31; Vermont, Rutland, October 10, and West Barnet, October 17; Massachusetts, Lynn, October 28, and Boston, October 30; Rhode Islauid, Providence, October 13; New York, Rochester, October 10, Ithaca, October 19, and New York City, October 31; New Jersey, Montclair, October 13, Elizabeth, October 16, and Morristown, November 1; District of Columbia, Washington, October 28; Maryland, Chesapeake Beach, November 2; and South Carolina, Long Island, November 8.

Casual records: The typical form of the solitary sandpiper has been many times taken in Western States. Among these occurrences are: New Mexico (Guadalupito, August 7, 1903); Wyoming (Ar vada, August 19, 1913); Montana (Milk River, July 25, 1874, Miles City, August 14, 1900, Gold Creek, August 20, 1910, and Three Buttes, August 6, 1874). Many specimens also have been taken in British Columbia (Atlin and Okanagan Landing), where it appears to be of regular occurrence, a specimen was taken at Griffin Point, Alaska, June 1, 1914, and one at Fort Chimo, IJngava.

Two were collected on October 12, 1897, on Chatham Island, Galapagos Archipelago; one was taken on the Clyde River, Lanark shire, Scotland; and another was obtained at Kangek, Greenland, on August 1, 1878.

Egg dates: Alberta: 29 records, May 24 to June 24; 15 records, May 30 to June 8.


The western race of this species is larger than the eastern. In adult nuptial plumage the upper parts are much less distinctly spotted with whitish, the white bars on the tail are decidedly narrower and the outer primary is usually finely mottled, with ashy white along the border of its inner web; this last is none too constant a character and is sometimes seen in the eastern bird. The name was derived from the fact that in young birds the light spots on the back, scapulars and wing coverts are brownish cinnamon instead of white or buffy whitish.

Courtship: The following description of the song flight of this species was originally recorded by Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1900) under the name of the undivided species, but he now evidently thinks that it should belong here:

The song flight of this species is mostly indulged in during the early morning hours. This consists of a slow circuitous flight on rapidly beating wings high over the tree tops, accompanied by the frequent repetition of a weak song some what resembling the call of a sparrow hawk. At the close of this song flight the bird alights, as If exhausted, and perches silently for some time at the top of the tallest spruce In tlie.vlcinlty. During the performance of the male, the female may he seen feeding around some grassy pool beneath, from all appearances entirely unmindful of the ecstatic efforts of her mate.

Nesting: Nothing definite is known of the breeding range or nest ing habits of the western solitary sandpiper. It is supposed to breed in the interior of British Columbia and Alaska. The following observations, made near Circle, Alaska, by Dr. Wilfred H. Osgood (1909) throw some light on the subject:

Within a radius of several miles from Circle one or more adults were found about almost every woodland swamp. In most cases they acted like parent birds anxious for the safety of their young. Whenever we entered certain pre cincts, they hovered nervously ahout, calling loudly, or alighted on nearby trees scolding. The first pair seen near Charlie Creek exhihited such actions on the evening of June 22, and we made a hasty search in the twilight for young birds, hut found nothing. The excitement of the old birds seemed to he greatest while we were in a small grassy swamp, so the next day we made a more careful search. The old birds were even more excited than before, and it was some time hefore we detected that, besides the loud cries ringing all about us, a faint peeping was issuing from several points in the grass. Guided by this scarcely audible peeping, we soon found three downy young birds widely separated and squatting aimlessly in the grass. They are quite small, exactly of a size, and none shows the least indication of growing feathers; evidently they belonged to one clutch, and could not have been out of the eggs more than one or two days. The eggs of this species, like those of the European green sandpiper, have been found in the nests of other birds in trees. The small open ing where the birds were found was bounded on one side by an extensive area grown with willows of relatively small size, hut on the other side was only a thin line of willows and then alders, birch, poplars, and heavy spruce, in which probably such birds as olive-backed thrushes, robins, and varied thrushes nested in abundance. Therefore there was ample opportunity for the sandplpers to lay their eggs In the nests of these birds.

Plumages: The downy young referred to above are thus described by Robert Ridgway, (1919):

General color of upper parts cinnamon drab, longitudinally varied with brownish black; forehead and crown with a broad median streak of black; a sharply defined black loral streak, extending from bill to eye; a narrow black stripe across auricular region (longitudinally), or a black postam-Icular spot; occiput brown centrally, black exteriorly, the black border sending from each side a forward branch; an oval patch of brownish black on median portion of rump, this bordered along each side by a stripe of pale dull vinaceous-buff, the two huffy stripes converging or almost uniting both anteriorly and posteriorly; wings cinnamon drab, margined posteriorly with dull white, the brown portion with several irregular spots or blotches of black; under parts dull white.

Subsequent plumages and molts are doubtless similar to those of the eastern race.

Winter: As mentioned under the preceding subspecies, we know very little about the winter distribution of the two races. Dr. Frank M. Chapman (1926) says that most of his specimens from Ecuador are of this form, which be calls “a common winter resident from the coast to the tableland, arriving from the north at least as early as August 10.” Dr. Alexander Y~Tetmore (1926) says:

The specimens taken at Formosa and General Roca belong certainly to the western form, on the basis of size (male, wing, 134.3; female, wing 136.7 mm.), dorsal coloration, and the presence of mottling on the inner web of the outer primary. A female from Lazcano, Uruguay, has molted the Outer primaries, but on the basis of other measurements and on the presence of some dark, buff mottling on the back seems within tho limit of variation of cinnarnornea and is identified as the samo as the other two. Though the typical subspecies soittaria is recorded definitely from Colombia by Chapman, tbese findings seem to cast a doubt on its presence as far south ns Argentina.

Range: Western North America and South America.

Breeding range: No unquestioned set of eggs of the western soli tary sandpiper has thus far been recorded. Downy young with their parents have, however, been taken in western Alberta (Henry House) and in Alaska (Circle, Kowak River, Eagle, and Charlie Creek). There also is a strong probability of their breeding in British Co lumbia (Cariboo District, and Ducks).

Winter range: As mentioned under 7′. s. solitaria. the two races of this species on their wintering grounds in South America have been distinguished only on a few occasions. It is probable that they either occupy the same winter grounds or that. their ranges overlap. All specimens collected by Wetmore (1926) from Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina., prove to be this form, indicating that it may winter south of true solitaria. It also has been taken by Chapman in Ecuador (Guayaquil, Loja, and Cebollal).

Spring migration: Early dates of spring arrival are: Texas, Sam uels, April 15, and Henrietta, April 19; New Mexico, State College, May 4, and Las Vegas, May 8; Colorado, Colorado Springs, May 1, Denver, May 4, and Boulder, May 5; Montana, Terry, May 7, and Billings. May 10; Alberta, Athabaska Landing, May 5, Edmonton, May 10, and Sandy Creek, May 14; Mackenzie, Fort Simpson, May 10, and Fort Providence, May 14; Arizona, Verde Valley, April 20, anti Paradise, May 9; California, Los Angeles, April 10, Gridley, April 23, and Fort Crook, May 4; Oregon, Anthony, April 16, and Malheur Lake, April 17; Washington, Tacoma, May 6; British Co lumbia, Okanagan Landing, May 5, and Chilliwack, May 7; Yukon, Forty-mile, May 8; and Alaska, Tocatna Forks, May 12, Nulato, May 15, and Kowak River, May 18.

Late dates of spring departure are: Colorado, Boulder, May 25, Denver, May 28, and Grand Junction, June 3; and Wyoming, Fort Saders, May 25.

Fall migration: Early dates of fall arrival are: California, Santa Barbara, July 22; Arizona, Apache, July 29, Cave Spring, August 1, and White Mountains, August 10; Montana, Terry, June 28; Wyoming, New Castle, July 7; Colorado, Lytle, July 6, Middle Park, July 13, and El Paso County, July 23; New Mexico, Zuni Mountains, July 24; and Texas, Brownsville, July 31.

Late dates of fall departure are: Alaska, Taku River, September 15; British Columbia, Okanagan Landing, September 26; Washing ton, Seattle, September 11; California, Santa Barbara, September 7; Arizona, San Pedro River, October 10; Lower California, Agua Escondido, November 18; Montana, Missoula, September 4, Terry, September 5, and Bitterroot Valley, September 7; Wyoming, Yellow stone Park, September 4, and Green River, September 5; Colorado, Boulder, September 18, Florissant, October 5, and Greeley, October 25; and New Mexico, Acoma, September 27, and Glenrio, October 2.

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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