Photo: A sandpiper on the beach

Sandpipers are most often seen poking in the sand for insects. Unlike most birds, they are quite agile on the ground, and rather awkward in flight.

Photograph courtesy Lee Karney/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Map

Map: Sandpiper range

Common Sandpiper Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Bird
Diet:
Carnivore
Size:
7.5 to 8.25 in (19 to 21 cm)
Weight:
1.5 to 2.5 oz (40 to 70 g)
Size relative to a tea cup:
Illustration: Sandpiper compared with tea cup

Sandpipers are familiar birds that are often seen running near the water's edge on beaches and tidal mud flats. The common sandpiper has a brown upper body and a white underside. When at rest its wingtips reach halfway back to its tail. The bird is a European and Asian species, but is closely related to the similar-looking spotted sandpiper of the Americas.

The common sandpiper is a migrator, but it frequents similar habitats year-round. When in upland areas, sandpipers live along river, ponds, or lakes.

Common sandpipers are small to medium sized birds, but they have relatively long legs that they put to good use. When seen running in groups the birds appear to display a remarkable coordination of movement. Sandpipers are ground feeders that dine on crustaceans, insects, worms, and other coastal creatures. They retrieve them by meticulously pecking and probing with their short bills.

In flight, common sandpipers have a stiff-winged style and typically stay close to the water or ground. When airborne they tend to be vocal animals. They sound off with a distinctive three-note, piping-like cry—often represented as "twee-wee-wee."

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