Purple Sandpiper Life History


Habitat ShorelinesBreeds along low tundra near shorelines, as well as gravel beaches along rivers. Winters along rocky coastlines and man-made jetties.Back to top


Food Aquatic invertebratesDuring breeding, mostly insects and spiders, plus seeds and berries. In winter, mostly gastropods, insects, and crustaceans.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

Depression in the ground, lined with leaves and down.

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size:3-4 eggs
Egg Description:Beige to olive, with variable spotting.
Condition at Hatching:Completely covered with dense white down. Capable of walking and pecking at ground within a few hours of hatching.
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Behavior ProbingPurple Sandpipers of both sexes raise one wing straight up in response to perceived threats. In its distraction display, commonly called the "Rodent Run" display, the Purple Sandpiper tries to draw predators away from nests by running, conspicuously fluffing feathers, and making mouse-like squeals.Feeds on rocky intertidal areas and break-waters, running among seaweed and rocks and picking prey. Found on rocks in splashing surf. Less commonly feeds along beaches or muddy pools. Also feeds by picking in tundra soils.Back to top


Conservation Restricted RangeThere is little information on Purple Sandpiper population trends, in part because the birds move around a lot, with some populations having trans-Atlantic migrations, and others breeding in remote Arctic locations. A 2012 estimates the North American population at 25,000, and notes that populations appear to be declining. Count data in Canada shows a statistically significant decline in numbers. In the United States, identifying and protecting winter habitat is a management priority. North American populations are on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists species most in danger of extinction without significant conservation action.Back to top


Andres, B. A., P. A. Smith, R. I. G. Morrison, C. L. Gratto-Trevor, S. C. Brown and C. A. Friis. (2012a). Population estimates of North American shorebirds, 2012. Wader Study Group Bulletin 119 (3):178-194.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. (2014). The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Payne, Laura X. and Elin P. Pierce. (2002). Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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