Living Bird Magazine
Pectoral SandpiperCalidris melanotos
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Scolopacidae
The Pectoral Sandpiper is among the most recognizable of small shorebirds, larger than the small “peep” sandpipers and sporting a distinctively stippled breast that ends neatly at a white belly. On their tundra breeding grounds, males perform an unforgettable display flight in which they inflate and deflate an air sac in the breast to create low-pitched hooting sounds. Like many shorebirds, Pectoral Sandpiper populations are declining, and this species is on the Partners in Flight Yellow Watch List.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Pectoral Sandpipers are fairly common migrants eastern half of North America during migration—particularly in fall, when records span July through October and often later. Look for their heads poking up from grassy habitats such as marshy edges and wet meadows. They can be hard to see here but are generally more numerous than out on open mudflats. Also listen for their low call, usually given in flight, which is very distinctive.
- Correlimos Pectoral (Spanish)
- Bécasseau à poitrine cendrée (French)
- Cool Facts
- Pectoral Sandpipers nest from the tundra of easternmost Russia across Alaska and into northern Canada. A few migrate to Australasia for the winter, but most winter in southern South America. This means that some Pectoral Sandpipers make a round-trip migration of nearly 19,000 miles every year!
- A puzzling shorebird first found in Australia in 1955, and since observed in the United States and Japan, was named Cox's Sandpiper—thought to be a new, very rare species. In 1996, a study that used DNA analysis determined that such birds were in fact the offspring of a male Pectoral Sandpiper and a female Curlew Sandpiper. The name “Cox’s Sandpiper” is still used by birders who are lucky enough to find one of these rare hybrids!
- The breeding male Pectoral Sandpiper has an inflatable throat sac, which expands and contracts rhythmically during display flights. The accompanying vocalization consists of a series of hollow hoots and is one of the most unusual sounds heard in summer on the arctic tundra.
- The oldest recorded Pectoral Sandpiper was at least 5 years, 11 months old when it was found in 1983 in El Salvador. It had been banded in Kansas in 1978.