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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Sanderling -- Calidris alba


RANGE: Breeds in northern Alaska, and from Prince Patrick Island to northern Ellesmere Island, south to northern Mackenzie, northern Keewatin, and Southampton, and northern Baffin Islands. Nonbreeding birds occur in summer in the winter range. Winters in the Aleutian Islands (locally), and from southern Alaska, the Gulf Coast, and Massachusetts south along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts to South America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits high Arctic tundra, particularly dry clay-mixed stony plains sparsely covered with willows, dryad, and saxifrage, on islands, peninsulas, and along the coast. Outside the breeding season, frequents sandy coastal beaches and tidal flats. Inland migrants inhabit sandbars along rivers and on lake beaches.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Dry tundra.

NEST: Nests in a slight hollow or depression on the ground on stony, well-drained ridge tops, gentle slopes, or on level alluvial plains. Usually locates nest at the edge of, or in, clumps of low plants and within several hundred yards of a marshy pond, but occasionally nests up to a mile from wet tundra.

FOOD: Probes in wet sand, picks up food washed on shore by the tide, and snatches up insects. In winter and on migration, feeds on sand fleas, shrimp, and other small crustaceans, small mollusks, and marine worms. On the breeding grounds, feeds on flies and their larvae, and other insects.

REFERENCES: Bent 1927, Cramp and Simmons 1983, Davis in Farrand 1983a, Parmelee 1970, Palmer 1967.


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