News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters Country birds

The most widely spread sandpiper in N. America is the Spotted Sandpiper [actitis macularius]. They live along rivers, lakes, and ponds, bobbing and teetering upon the shoreline to eat many bugs and crustaceans. They are often called a teeter-tail, tip-tail, or perk bird. Their chicks start to “teeter” as soon as they hatch. It is not known what function this serves.

Spotted Sandpipers get their name from the dark spots that appear on their white breast during the breeding season. Their back is dark brown, and during the winter, their breast is plain white. When flying, spotted sandpipers have a thin white stripe that appears along their wings. Their diet includes almost anything that is small enough for them to eat. Common foods include midges, mayflies, flies, grasshoppers, crickets, worms, snails, and small crustaceans. Spotted Sandpipers are foragers; they’ll poke into sand or mud with their bills, lunge at moving prey, catch flying insects, or pick bugs off of plants.

Spotted Sandpipers breed between May and August. Females arrive to the breeding grounds earlier to establish and defend territory. They will sometimes also mate with multiple males, with each male caring for the clutch of eggs. Females generally lay a clutch of four eggs, and they can lay up to five clutches a year. These birds are unusual in that the males provide the majority of parental care. Chicks are able to walk within four hours of hatching, and can feed themselves shortly after.

A group of sandpipers are called a “hill,” a “fling,” a “bind,” a “contradiction,” or a “time-step.”

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