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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Spotted Sandpiper -- Actitis macularia

RANGE: Breeds from central Alaska and central Yukon to Labrador and Newfoundland, south to southern Alaska, southern California, and central Arizona across to the northern portions of the Gulf States, North Carolina, Virginia, and eastern Maryland. Occasionally nonbreeding birds remain on the wintering ground in summer. Winters from southwestern British Columbia, southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, the southern portions of the Gulf States and coastal South Carolina south to South America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits the edges of ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams and open terrain with temporary pools, up to 14,000 feet elevation. It is sometimes found far from water in dry fields, pastures, and weedy shoulders of roads, occasionally on coastal beaches and dunes. Roosts on stumps, stranded logs, or rocks affording a clear view. In winter, frequents watercourses shaded by trees, and prefers shallow, muddy lagoons, creeks, canals, and higher mudflats.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Margins of freshwater bodies.

NEST: Builds solitary or loosely colonial nests on the ground, among thick, tall grasses, occasionally under a bush or log, and usually near water.

FOOD: Forages ashore or in shallow water, picking up insects and other small invertebrates. Eats fly larvae, pupae, and adults; mayflies; grasshoppers; crickets; mole crickets; worms; mollusks; crustaceans; and spiders.

REFERENCES: Cramp and Simmons 1983, DeGraff et al. 1980, Knowles 1942, Palmer 1967.

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