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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

Western Sandpiper -- Calidris mauri

RANGE: Breeds on islands in the Bering Sea and along the coasts of western and northern Alaska. Winters from California and North Carolina south along both the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts to South America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits a complex mosaic of wet low-lying grass and sedge marshes dotted with small pools and lakes, and relatively well-drained heath-covered tundra such as hummocks, ridges, and better drained slopes of hills that are vegetated with mosses, lichens, dwarf shrub heath, dwarf birch, willows, and some herbs, grasses, and sedges. Outside of the breeding season, frequents mudflats, beaches, shores of lakes and ponds, and flooded fields.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Patches of dwarf shrub-heath tundra (at least 1/2 acre) interspersed among wet marshes for nesting.

NEST: Nests on the ground in loose colonies or singly in nests that are usually well camouflaged under low vegetation. Locates nests in dry or moist areas, from the upper slopes of hills down to the marsh edge, or within a marsh on a patch of heath tundra. After fledging, moves into the marshes, frequenting margins of lakes and rivers.

FOOD: Feeds by snatching or probing for food close to or in water; eats small invertebrates, including insect larvae and aquatic beetles, bugs, marine worms, and small snails.

REFERENCES: Bent 1927, Cramp and Simmons 1983, Holmes 1971, Palmer 1967.

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