Sunday, October 19, 2014

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpipers are “moderately abundant,” and have the broadest and southernmost breeding range of all the small sandpipers across the arctic and subarctic (Nebel and Cooper 2008). In a previous post, I mentioned that eastern populations make nonstop 4,000 km migrations from New England to their South American wintering grounds. Western birds migrate through the Midwest or down the Pacific Coast.

Erika and I were actually a tad disappointed that such a common sandpiper was the only shorebird we listed on 19 July 2014 at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. (The dark back and the yellow legs are keys to its identity.) Being relatively small, bird censuses may tend to under-count this species. Nevertheless, studies suggest significant declines in numbers during recent decades (Nebel and Cooper 2008).

Least Sandpipers are monogamous and lay a single clutch, therefore one might expect them among the earliest of the fall migrants. They also have “a high degree of breeding-site fidelity,” thus it is somewhat surprising that they do not differentiate across their wide range—no subspecies are described (Nebel and Cooper 2008).

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