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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

Least Sandpiper -- Calidris minutilla

RANGE: Breeds from western Alaska and northern Yukon to southern Keewatin, northern Quebec, and northern Labrador south to the Alaska Peninsula, southeastern Alaska, and northwestern British Columbia across to northern Ontario, eastern Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland; isolated breeding in Massachusetts. Nonbreeding birds summer in the wintering range, primarily in North America south to California and the Gulf Coast. Winters from coastal Oregon and southern Nevada to central Texas, the Gulf States, and North Carolina south to South America.

STATUS: Very common.

HABITAT: Inhabits open grass or sedge bogs and marshes in the northern spruce forest just south of treeless tundra, or among complexes of pools and water channels with scattered knolls and hummocks. Outside of the breeding season, prefers wet, muddy, or grassy areas such as muddy shores of grass fringed marshes or estuaries, grassy wet meadows, and grass-bordered mudflats of lakes, ponds, or rivers; found less frequently on sandy beaches.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Wetlands of subarctic boreal forests and tundra.

NEST: Nests in a depression in a mossy hummock, a plant tuft, in a clump of grass, or sometimes on the ground, usually in marshy cover but sometimes in drier upland near water.

FOOD: Prefers to feed in marshes, where it snatches insects or probes for food in soft mud or in shallow water. Eats midges and other dipterans, ground beetles, grasshoppers, insect larvae, small crustaceans, small mollusks, and worms.

REFERENCES: Cramp and Simmons 1983, Cottam and Hanson 1938, Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1967, Pough 1951, Terres 1980.

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