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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

Semipalmated Sandpiper -- Calidris pusilla

RANGE: Breeds from the Arctic Coast of western and northern Alaska north to Victoria and central Baffin Islands, east to northern Labrador, and south to western Alaska and east-central Mackenzie across to northern Ontario, northern Quebec, and coastal Labrador. Nonbreeding birds may summer in coastal North America south to the Gulf Coast and Panama. Winters from southern Florida south to South America.

STATUS: Abundant.

HABITAT: Inhabits subarctic and low to high Arctic tundra from coasts, dunes, borders of tidal inlets and deltas to damp grassy flats in interior and wet riverside tundra. Often occurs near lakes or pools, shifting from first areas uncovered by melting snow and surface ice to others becoming clear shortly afterwards, including upland tundra. In other seasons, frequents mudflats, sandy beaches, and wet meadows, favoring the vicinity of water on tidal flats, lagoons, and ponds.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Grassy or hummocky tundra.

NEST: Nests in a slight depression on the ground, amid short herbage, sometimes in sand on grassy dunes or in low wet tundra near small lakes.

FOOD: Forages by snatching food from surface and probing in soft mud on mudflats or in wet sand exposed by ebbing tide. Eats beetles, flies, fly larvae, mosquitoes, small mollusks, marine worms, small crustaceans, and bits of seaweeds.

REFERENCES: Cramp and Simmons 1983, Davis in Farrand 1983a, Palmer 1967, Terres 1980, Townsend in Bent 1927.

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