Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius)

Spotted Sandpiper

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Actitis macularius | [UK] Spotted Sandpiper | [FR] Chevalier grivele | [DE] Drossel-Uferlaufer | [ES] Andarrios maculado | [NL] Amerikaanse Oeverloper


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Aechmorhynchus macularius
Actitis macularius NA widespread s USA through LA

Physical charateristics

Spotted Sandpipers are distinctive shorebirds with bold, dark spots on their undersides during the breeding season. The beak is relatively short, straight, and yellowish in breeding plumage. In non-breeding plumage, Spotted Sandpipers lose most of their spots

Listen to the sound of Spotted Sandpiper

[audio: Sandpiper.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 37 cm wingspan max.: 40 cm
size min.: 18 cm size max.: 20 cm
incubation min.: 20 days incubation max.: 24 days
fledging min.: 17 days fledging max.: 24 days
broods: 3   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America : widespread


Spotted Sandpipers breed in a variety of freshwater habitats from sea level to alpine areas, although they are not as common at higher elevations. Nesting near streams, rivers, and lakes in open and wooded country, they require a shore for foraging and herbaceous cover for their nests. During migration and winter, they can be found almost anywhere near water, including mudflats, beaches, breakwaters, sewage ponds, and even in irrigation ditches. They prefer fresh water, but can also be found along salt water during migration.


Spotted Sandpipers are polyandrous’the female breeds with more than one male. Females are fully dominant; they are larger than males and arrive first on the breeding territory. The female stakes out a territory and displays to attract a male. The nest is on the ground, partly concealed by a log or a rock or hidden in vegetation, and lined with grass, twigs, and feathers. The female lays 4 eggs, and then leaves the male to incubate them while she finds another mate. In this way, she may breed with up to four males, each of which will raise a clutch. The female will often raise a final clutch herself. Incubation lasts for 19 to 22 days. The young leave the nest soon after they hatch. The male tends the young for at least four weeks, although they find their own food. Some populations are monogamous, and in those instances, the female will help tend the young. The young can fly weakly at 15 days, and by 18 days are capable of sustained flight.

Feeding habits

Spotted Sandpipers are fairly solitary, and are seldom seen in flocks. They are well known for their habit of bobbing their rears up and down, and this can be a good way to identify them. Their flight is also characteristic’they fly low over the water with shallow, stiff wing-beats and bursts of flapping and gliding. When foraging, they pick up items from the surface of the ground or water, but will also grab insects out of the air. They forage right at the edge of a body of water. Spotted Sandpipers eat a wide variety of invertebrates.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Spotted Sandpiper status Least Concern


Some Spotted Sandpipers migrate short distances to the southern United States and Pacific Coast, but others trave l as far as South America. They generally arrive in Washington the first or second week of May. Most adults leave by late July or August, and juveniles follow by September or October.

Distribution map

Spotted Sandpiper distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *