Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus)

Stilt Sandpiper

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Calidris himantopus | [UK] Stilt Sandpiper | [FR] Becasseau a echasses | [DE] Binden-Strandlaufer | [ES] Correlimos Zancolin | [NL] Steltstrandloper


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Eurynorhynchus himantopus
Calidris himantopus NA n sc SA

Physical charateristics

Often described as looking like a yellowlegs and feeding like a dowitcher, the Stilt Sandpiper is a medium-sized, long-legged wader. Its breeding plumage is distinctive, but rarely seen in Washington. It is heavily barred brown-and-white above and below, with a white eye-line that separates a rufous cap and cheek. In non-breeding plumage, the Stilt Sandpiper is pale gray, with a light, unstreaked belly and white eye-line. Juveniles are light brownish-gray with lightly streaked breasts and scaled backs. In flight, they show gray and white underwings, solid gray upperwings, white rumps, and gray tails.
Large flocks of Stilt Sandpipers are common in areas where they are abundant, but in Washington, single birds or a few birds are generally seen mixed with flocks of dowitchers or Lesser Yellowlegs. Stilt Sandpipers usually forage in shallow water up to their bellies. They probe in the mud for food, often moving their heads up and down, sometimes under water, in a sewing-machine motion like that of a dowitcher. They also pick food from the surface of the water.

Listen to the sound of Stilt Sandpiper

[audio: Sandpiper.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 43 cm wingspan max.: 47 cm
size min.: 18 cm size max.: 21 cm
incubation min.: 19 days incubation max.: 21 days
fledging min.: 17 days fledging max.: 21 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America : North


Stilt Sandpipers’ breeding grounds are in the Arctic tundra, north of the tree line. They nest in wet sedge-meadows with raised ridges and hummocks. During the non-breeding season, they are usually found in fresh water ponds, marshes, lagoons, and flooded fields.


Stilt Sandpipers generally don’t breed until they are two years old. Males arrive on the breeding grounds a few days before females. Pairs form once the females arrive. The male makes a few scrapes in a dry spot on the ground, often on a ridge or hummock of sedge, surrounded by water. The female then chooses one of the scrapes for the nest. The nest may be sparsely lined with sedge leaves. Both parents incubate the four eggs for 19 to 21 days. The young leave the nest within a day of hatching and find their own food. Both parents tend the young at first, but the female usually leaves within seven days. The male stays with the young for 10 to 14 days, but abandons the young before they can fly well, at 17 to 18 days. Each pair raises only one brood per season.

Feeding habits

Stilt Sandpipers eat a wide variety of insects and insect larvae during the breeding season. At other times of the year, they eat seeds, leaves, and roots of aquatic plants, marine worms, and other aquatic invertebrates.


This species has a very 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). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not 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.
Stilt Sandpiper status Least Concern


The Stilt Sandpiper breeds in the open arctic tundra of North America It is a very long-distance migrant, wintering mainly in South America. It occurs as a rare vagrant to western Europe.

Distribution map

Stilt Sandpiper distribution range map

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