Living Bird Magazine
Upland SandpiperBartramia longicauda
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Scolopacidae
The elegant, enigmatic Upland Sandpiper paces across grassland habitats like a tiny, short-billed curlew throughout the year: prairies, pastures, and croplands in summer; and South American grasslands in winter. Unlike most other North American shorebirds it avoids wetlands, instead hunting grasshoppers and other insects with jerky steps and quick jabs at prey. Male Upland Sandpipers often perch on fence posts early in the breeding season and perform memorable flight songs over their territories, often joined by their mates.More ID Info
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Upland Sandpipers nest mainly in natural prairies, but they forage (and to a lesser extent nest) in a wide variety of grasslands, croplands, and pastures. During the early part of the nesting cycle, watch for males calling from fence posts. After the eggs hatch, you may spot family groups foraging together. Migrating Upland Sandpipers are scarce but may turn up in fields almost anywhere including short, prairielike fields, sports fields, and sod farms, beginning in mid-July. Most have departed the United States by mid-September, earlier than many other shorebird species.
- Correlimos Batitú (Spanish)
- Maubèche des champs (French)
- Cool Facts
- Upland Sandpipers have given taxonomists plenty to work on: The birds were thought to be in the plover family until 1973, when they became Upland Sandpipers. Other names include Bartramian Tattler and Bartramian Sandpiper. German natural historian Johann Matthäus Bechstein first named the species Tringa longicauda (named for its long tail) in 1812. The following year, Alexander Wilson, not having seen Bechstein’s description, named it Tringa bartramia, in honor of his teacher, pioneering naturalist John Bartram. In 1831, French natural historian René Primevère Lesson created a new genus for this distinctive species, Bartramia. Its scientific name has remained Bartramia longicauda ever since, even though its English name has changed three times.
- Upland Sandpiper’s association with native prairie is so strong that scientists consider it to be an “indicator species,” along with Sprague’s Pipit and Baird’s Sparrow, that can indicate the quality a habitat. Thus, the absence of these three birds in a patch of prairie would indicate to biologists that there is likely a problem with the habitat.
- The Upland Sandpiper begins southward migration rather early, in mid-July. It spends up to 8 months of the year in its winter home in South America, during the austral summer.
- In several Northeastern and Midwestern states, the majority of nesting Upland Sandpipers live on the grounds of airports, where the short grass does a passable imitation of their natural prairie habitat.
- The oldest recorded Upland Sandpiper was at least 8 years, 11 months old, and lived in New York.