Sanderling

Silhouette SandpipersSandpipers

Sanderling

Calidris alba
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Scolopacidae
Basic Description

The Sanderling’s black legs blur as it runs back and forth on the beach, picking or probing for tiny prey in the wet sand left by receding waves. Sanderlings are medium-sized “peep” sandpipers recognizable by their pale nonbreeding plumage, black legs and bill, and obsessive wave-chasing habits. Learn this species, and you’ll have an aid in sorting out less common shorebirds. These extreme long-distance migrants breed only on High Arctic tundra, but during the winter they live on most of the sandy beaches of the world.

More ID Info
image of range map for SanderlingRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Sanderlings are easy to find on sandy beaches from fall through spring. Pick a beach with a low, gradual slope and walk along the water’s edge. Look for small shorebirds running back and forth in sync with the waves—these are likely to be Sanderlings. While other shorebirds such as plovers and Willets may feed alongside Sanderlings on these outer beaches, this is truly the Sanderling’s domain; these plucky birds often aggressively defend their feeding territories at water’s edge from other shorebirds.

Other Names
  • Correlimos Tridáctilo (Spanish)
  • Bécasseau sanderling (French)
  • Cool Facts