SPOTTED SANDPIPER – (Actitis macularius)
The Spotted sandpiper is a small shorebird that is the only one with dark spots (hence the Latin word ‘macularius’, which means ‘spot’) all over its’ under parts in breeding plumage, which makes it easier to identify, at least during the summer. Another trait specific to that bird species is the constant tail bobbing, which gave the spotted sandpiper its French name, Maubèche branle-queue. The spotted sandpiper is around 19 cm (7.8 in.) long, and is brown on top with an orange bill and yellow legs. The bill is about the same length as the head.
As with other shorebirds, the spotted sandpiper feeds on invertebrates that it digs out in the sand or mud with its bill. It can also catch flying insects. This bird has a diversified habitat inland or on coasts, wherever there is water. Another unique trait of this bird species is an apparent role reversal between the sexes when choosing the territory, nesting and feeding the chicks.
The spotted sandpiper breeds on PEI and is fairly common except in the winter. It is widely distributed throughout Canada and the USA, and its wintering range is Mexico, Central and South America. Its population levels are however sensitive to alterations to its wetland habitat, for example from pesticides or polluted runoff.
The spotted sandpiper has a sister species, the Common Sandpiper (A. hypoleucos), and together they make up the genus Actitis. They replace each other geographically; stray birds may settle down with breeders of the other species and hybridize. Here’s a photo below of a common sandpiper, as a comparison with the spotted sandpiper.