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Pectoral Sandpipers, Calidris melanotos

Pectoral sandpiper perched on a rocky shore

Pectoral Sandpipers are medium-sized shorebirds that breed in the high Arctic tundra regions of North America, Asia, and parts of Europe, typically from May to June.

During their breeding season, these sandpipers are commonly found in wet tundra habitats, often near shallow ponds or marshes, where their primary diet consists of insects, especially midges and crane flies, which are abundant during the summer months.

They forage in the wet tundra, probing the soft ground with their long bills to capture their prey. Additionally, Pectoral Sandpipers may occasionally feed on small crustaceans and various aquatic invertebrates.

Pectoral Sandpipers possess long legs and bills, which are well-suited for their feeding habits in the soft, wet tundra. Their distinctive “pectoral” display during courtship involves the males puffing out their chest feathers and making a series of calls.

For nesting, Pectoral Sandpipers utilize ground nests in the tundra, often concealed within the vegetation. They construct cup-shaped nests lined with leaves, grass, and other plant materials.

After laying their eggs, which are typically four in number, incubation begins. Both the male and female take turns incubating the eggs, which hatch after about three to four weeks. Initially, the chicks are fed a diet of small invertebrates brought by the adults.

As the chicks develop, they learn to forage under the guidance of the adults. Pectoral Sandpiper chicks grow rapidly, but they are vulnerable to predators during this phase.

Once the chicks reach maturity, they fledge and continue to be supervised by the adults. Their diet diversifies as they learn to forage on their own, including a wider range of invertebrates.

Migration to countries such as Argentina, Chile, and Brazil occurs during late summer and early autumn. They follow specific flyways, with the Eastern North American population migrating along the Atlantic coast and the Western population following the Pacific coast. While some of the Pectoral Sandpipers in the Asian Arctic migrate to Australia, most travel as much as 19,000 miles along the North American Pacific flyway to Southern South America.

During the winter months, Pectoral Sandpipers can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including estuaries and mudflats, where they primarily feed on small crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic insects.

They begin their northward migration in late April or early May, leaving their wintering grounds to return to their breeding areas in the Arctic tundra.