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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

Stilt Sandpiper -- Calidris himantopus

RANGE: Breeds from northern Alaska, northern Yukon, northern Mackenzie, and southern Victoria Island southeast to southeastern Keewatin, northeastern Manitoba, and northern Ontario, probably also south locally in Canada to borders of the taiga. Winters primarily in South America, but casually northward to southeastern California, the Gulf Coast, and Florida.

STATUS: Uncommon.

HABITAT: Inhabits sedge meadows interrupted by old beach ridges, eskers, or other elevated areas dominated by dwarf birch, heaths, willows, crowberries, and dryads. Sometimes occurs in wet tundra areas with fairly high willows, or on much drier slopes with moderate vegetative cover, avoiding truly barren ridgetops.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Well-drained sedge meadows in arctic tundra with elevated sites for nesting.

NEST: Nests in a depression on the ground in relatively open areas of dry tundra, usually atop a hummock or on a low, well-drained gravel ridge; occasionally nests next to a shrub. Locates nest sites independent of standing water. May reuse old nests. Moves chicks from drying sedge meadows to wet areas.

FOOD: Forages on dry ridgetops, around clumps of sedges, at the edges of tiny depressions filled with water, in marshes at tundra pond margins, by probing in soft mud on mudflats or while wading in water. Feeds opportunistically, on a relatively small spectrum of food including larval and adult beetles, larvae of other insects, flies and other flying insects, water bugs, small snails, and small seeds.

REFERENCES: Cramp and Simmons 1983, Jehl 1973, Palmer 1967, Terres 1980.

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