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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Shorebirds

Least Sandpipers, Calidris minutilla

Least sandpipers wading for food.

Least Sandpipers are shorebirds that breed in tundra and boreal wetlands in North America, primarily in Alaska and Canada, from May to August.

Least Sandpipers are commonly found in wet meadows, bogs, and the edges of ponds and marshes, where insects, small crustaceans, and other invertebrates are abundant during the breeding season.

They forage in muddy shorelines, shallow waters, and wet grassy areas for small insects, insect larvae, spiders, and tiny crustaceans. They may also feed on seeds and plant material.

Least Sandpipers have short, thin bills adapted for picking small prey from the surface and probing soft mud. Their relatively long toes enable them to walk on mud and vegetation without sinking.

Courtship involves males performing aerial displays, flying in loops and circles while calling to attract females. Ground displays include wing raising, tail spreading, and bowing.

Nests are built by females in shallow depressions on the ground, lined with grass, moss, and leaves. Nests are typically situated in well-hidden areas among dense vegetation or mossy hummocks.

Egg laying occurs from May to July, with females laying 3-4 eggs. Incubation lasts about 19-22 days and is primarily done by females. Upon hatching, chicks are precocial and leave the nest shortly after to follow the female parent. Initial diets include small insects and other invertebrates provided by the female.

Chicks learn to forage under the female’s supervision, initially relying on her to find food. As they grow, they begin to forage independently but are vulnerable to predation and cold weather.

Fledging occurs at about 15-20 days, with continued guidance from the female parent. Juvenile diets gradually expand to include a wider range of invertebrates as they develop foraging skills.

Migration begins in late summer to early autumn, with birds traveling along both coastal and inland flyways to wintering regions in the southern United States, Central America, and northern South America.

Wintering habitats include coastal mudflats, mangroves, estuaries, and freshwater wetlands. Foraging continues in muddy and shallow areas, with diets consisting mainly of small crustaceans, insects, and other invertebrates.

Least Sandpipers leave their wintering grounds in late March to early April, returning north to breeding territories.