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IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.


  • Calls
  • Pair calls
  • Female laugh and call. Male call in background.
  • Agonisitc pursuit calls
  • Calls during copualtion
  • Female piping call followed by male
  • Precopulatory call
  • Calls around nest
  • Calls by male
  • Courtesy of Macaulay Library
    © Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Males call with croaking, frog-like trills before and during breeding display flights. Females signal their willingness to mate with a series of low buzzing notes that sound like a typewriter in motion. Adults of both sexes perform distraction displays, including snarls and cries, to lure predators away from the nest. Outside the breeding season, Sanderlings twitter in large flocks, each giving a series of soft, squeaky wick wick notes.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.



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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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