PECTORAL SANDPIPER

PECTORAL SANDPIPER(Calidros melatonos)

The Pectoral Sandpiper is a shore bird around 20 cm (8 in.), a length that makes him one of the larger sandpipers. The head is streaked brown with two lighter lines above the eye, and the under parts white. The bill is almost black and the legs dark yellow. The wings are brown with a white border, and the tail is mostly brown. Sexes are similar, and juveniles are similar but with more brownish streaks.

The name ‘Calidros’ is from ancient Greek and refers to a ‘grey shore bird’, and ‘melatonos’ refers to a ‘black back’. However the bird’s back is not black, but rather in tones of grey and brown. And the adjective ‘Pectoral’ in the English name refers to the fact that in breeding plumage, the bird has a brown streaked white breast with a clear delineation at the base (see photo below).

During courtship the male inflates its throat to emit a ‘hoot-hoot-hoot’ sound, which then makes the bird easy to identify.

Pectoral sandpipers build scrape nests on the ground with large amounts of lining material. They feed mainly on invertebrates by either probing the ground or by sight.

Although the pectoral sandpiper does not breed on PEI, it is fairly common in summer and fall, but occasional only in the spring. Its breeding range is in the tundra along the coasts of Siberia, Alaska and Canada bordering the Arctic Ocean. In Canada the range stops in the center of the country. This species is strongly migratory, and spends the winter in South America and Australia.

Conservation: although still listed as of ‘least concern’, the population of the pectoral sandpiper has declined in the last few decades.

Pectoral Sandpiper - Indian River area - Aug. 26, 2017 - © Chris Rice
Pectoral Sandpiper – Indian River area – Aug. 26, 2017 – Chris Rice
Pectoral Sandpiper in breeding plumage - photo by Andreas Trepte
Pectoral Sandpiper in breeding plumage – photo by Andreas Trepte

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