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Stilt Sandpiper

A medium-sized shorebird found in the Americas, breeding in the high Arctic and migrating to the southern United States, Central America, and South America for the non-breeding season. It has a distinctive appearance, with long, thin legs and a slightly curved bill that is longer than its head.

Not as numerous as some other shorebirds, and with a somewhat smaller breeding range, the Stilt Sandpiper nests in sub-arctic Alaska and Canada, but can be seen in migration across much of North America, especially in the east. The Stilt Sandpiper is a deeper water forager than most other sandpipers, and seeks invertebrates.

Male Stilt Sandpipers establish nesting territories with nests typically spaced a few hundred yards apart, though they fly up to five miles away to forage for food. If a young sandpiper survives its first year, it typically lives to be three to five years old, though the record age is nine years.

Stilt Sandpiper

Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus) feeding in a shallow pond near Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.


Description of the Stilt Sandpiper


The Stilt Sandpiper is a medium shorebird with yellowish legs and a long, somewhat down-curved bill. Breeding birds have heavily barred underparts, dark upperparts marked with white, and a strong white supercilium bordered by reddish.  In flight, white wing linings are visible.  Length: 8 in.  Wingspan: 18 in.

Stilt Sandpiper Stilt Sandpiper


The sexes are similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

Winter birds are plainer, with white underparts and gray upperparts.

Stilt Sandpiper Stilt Sandpiper Stilt Sandpiper Stilt Sandpiper


Juveniles are similar to breeding adults, but have white feather edging producing a scaled appearance on the upperparts.


Stilt Sandpipers inhabit mudflats, marshes, and tundra.


Stilt Sandpipers eat insects, mollusks, and seeds.


Stilt Sandpipers forage in shallow water, probing into the water and mud.


Stilt Sandpipers breed in Canada and Alaska. They winter from the southern U.S. to South America, and occur primarily across the eastern U.S. in migration. The population is stable.

Fun Facts

Stilt Sandpipers tend to feed in deeper water than other Calidris sandpipers.

Female Stilt Sandpipers often leave the young with the male a few days after they hatch.


The flight song is a series of buzzy trills.  A husky “qwerp” flight call is also given.

Similar Species


The Stilt Sandpiper’s nest is a depression placed on a ridge or hummock and frequently surrounded by water.

Number: Usually lay 4 eggs.
Color: Off white or olive with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
– Young hatch at about 19-21 days.

– Young leave the nest shortly after hatching, though associating with the adults for some time.

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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