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Least Sandpiper

Calidris minutilla ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: SCOLOPACIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Least Sandpipers are the smallest of the small sandpipers known as “peeps”—not much bigger than a sparrow. They have distinctive yellow-green legs and a high-pitched creep call. Look for them on edges of mudflats or marshes, where they walk with a hunched posture and probe for little crustaceans, insects, and other invertebrates. This common but declining shorebird migrates thousands of miles between its arctic breeding grounds and wintering grounds as far south as Chile and Brazil.

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Songs

On the breeding grounds, Least Sandpipers make a songlike sequence of rich trills and high notes, sung by males (and sometimes females).

Calls

Outside of the breeding season, Least Sandpipers give a high-pitched creep call. They also give loud trills as part of predator distraction displays, as well as thin seeet alarm calls.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Least Sandpipers breed in the tundra of the far north, so most people see them during migration (April to May and July to October) or winter. Look for them on mudflats or protected beaches. They are easiest to find on the coasts, but are also plentiful as migrants on inland bodies of water. Once you find suitable habitat of wet mud or sand, scan the edges of the water and look for very small sandpipers, warm brown above and white below with a short, thin, slightly decurved bill. If you can see yellowish legs you’ll be able to narrow down this bird quickly; just keep in mind that their legs sometimes look dark from mud stains. Shorebird identification can be complicated, so it’s important to look closely and carefully.

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All About Birds blog, These 8 Unexpected Migration Routes Give You Reason to Go Birding in Summer, July 16, 2014.

All About Birds blog, First-Ever World Shorebirds Day Highlights Need for Conservation, September 5, 2014.