Tringa glareolawood sandpiper

Geographic Range

Wood sandpipers (Tringa glareola) are one of the most abundant and far-reaching avian species. Their range extends from Siberia to Scotland. Their migration pattern is directed towards the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. These birds are one of the best migrants of their genus. In North America, they have been found in locations such as New York and Bermuda. Even though wood sandpipers are found in these locations, they are native to the Palearctic, Oriental, Ethiopian and Australian regions. During winter, they are found in parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. This species is plentiful in the sub-Saharan African region, as well as India. In contrast, their population size is minimal in Australia and Tasmania. In addition, this species may travel to Iceland, Azores, Barbados, Greenland, Faeroes, Madeira and Hawaii on its migratory path. (Alderfer, 2006; "Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola", 2013; Hayman, et al., 1986; Sibley, et al., 2009)


Wood sandpipers may be found in multiple habitats. This species is commonly found in open areas such as inland freshwater lakes, reservoirs, muddy marshlands, grassy stream banks, sewage farms, wet paddy fields, small temporary pools, permanent swamps, flooded grasslands, irrigation channels along creeks of salt marshes and mangrove swamps. However, these birds typically pursue breeding in between coniferous forests and tundra areas, with extensive mossy, sedge or grassy marshes. ("World Biomes", 2004; "Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola", 2013)

  • Terrestrial Biomes
  • taiga
  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • temporary pools
  • brackish water

Physical Description

Wood sandpipers have a spotted upper body, while their breasts and necks are white with brown stripes. This pattern can be seen in other members of their genus, including solitary sandpipers (Tringa solitaria) and green sandpipers (Tringa ochropus). Their white supercilium extends from behind their eyes to the back of their ear-coverts, or from the base of their beak to the back of their ear-coverts. Their beak is short and straight, with a deep olive-green base and averages 25 to 32 mm in length. Their tarsus, which is connected to their thighs, is 32 to 41 mm in length. Wood sandpipers' legs are long and vary in color from yellow to nearly green. Their legs connect to slender toes, with almost no webbing. Their hind toes hardly touch the ground when they stand. Their feet are projected beyond their tails, which are brownish, contrasting the white patch on their rump and measures 45 to 53 mm. Their features vary at different stages in their lives. Breeding adults have slim bodies, the upper portion of their feathers are white and speckled, while their breasts and necks are covered with streaks. Their legs are yellowish and their bill has a pale base. Non-breeding adults have brownish upper parts and do not have black feathers. At this stage they are not spotted like breeding adults, instead their breasts have grayish streaks. Juvenile birds are similar in appearance to non-breeding adults, except their upper parts are a much darker, warmer brown. Juveniles have more spotting and streaking on their breasts and by the end of autumn, the buff color fades into a whitish color. (Alderfer, 2006; Alsop III, 2001; Hayman, et al., 1986; Sibley, et al., 2009)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    159 g
    5.60 oz
  • Range length
    190 to 210 mm
    7.48 to 8.27 in
  • Range wingspan
    120 to 134 mm
    4.72 to 5.28 in


Wood sandpipers are monogamous and territorial birds whose breeding season occurs between May and Mid-July, although they begin occupying their breeding habitat by late April. Their breeding areas include boreal forests, wet heathlands, grassy marshes and scrublands. Males use their plumage to attract mates. When breeding, these birds disperse into solitary pairs. There are typically 1 to 10 pairs per km2, or up to 50 pairs per km2 in the forest tundra. This species nests in the winter, nesting sites may include 50 to over 1,000 nests scattered in a particular area. ("Wood Sandpiper", 2002; Alsop III, 2001; Baicich and Harrison, 2005; "Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola", 2013; Earle and Underhill, 1992)

Wood sandpipers display territorial behavior during breeding season. When choosing a mate, birds occasionally lock bills and fight. Once a mate is chosen, the pair progresses towards the nesting period. Their nests are made of dry leaves and grasses with a depression line built into the ground. At times, these birds use the abandoned tree nests of other birds. This species is singled-brooded and their eggs measure up to 38 x 26 mm. The incubation period is shared between the sexes; however, females spend more time incubating the chicks. After hatching, females leave the nest while males watch over the chicks. This continues until the chicks begin flying, which takes approximately 30 days. Once the chicks are able to fly, they are considered independent and they can leave the nest when the ground is dry. It takes approximately a year for chicks to fully mature. (Baicich and Harrison, 2005; Hayman, et al., 1986; "AnAge entry for Tringa glareola", 2012; Sibley, et al., 2009)

  • Breeding interval
    Wood sandpipers breed seasonally.
  • Breeding season
    Wood sandpipers breed from May to August.
  • Range eggs per season
    3 to 4
  • Average eggs per season
  • Range time to hatching
    22 to 23 days
  • Range fledging age
    28 to 31 days
  • Average time to independence
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

After breeding in solitary pairs, adult wood sandpipers begin leaving the breeding areas in late June; they are followed by the juveniles in late August. The precocial nature of this species allows it to start foraging a couple hours after hatching. At least one parent, typically the male, stays behind with the chicks during the first weeks after hatching. The mother usually leaves the nest in order to fatten up and regain the energy that was used during the production of eggs. In order to watch for predators and take care of the chicks, males stay at the nesting site instead of migrating. ("Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola", 2013; Sibley, et al., 2009; "Tringa glareola - Wood sandpiper", 2011)


Wood sandpipers have an adult mortality rate of 46%, with a first year mortality rate of 83 to 88%. The oldest banded wood sandpiper on record was 9 years and 2 months old. Direct mortality has been caused by human interference in their migration pathways. ("Tringa glareola — Wood Sandpiper", 2013; "AnAge entry for Tringa glareola", 2012)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    9.2 years


Wood sandpipers are full migratory birds that travel overland across Europe and the Middle East. However, during the breeding season, wood sandpipers stay near northern Russia until their young are hatched and on their way to maturation. Non-breeding birds tend to stay in southern regions throughout the summer. Solitary pairs maintain well-dispersed nests. After breeding, wood sandpipers migrate to tropical Africa. They may stop at locations north of the Mediterranean Sea and fly over the Sahara Desert. During March and early April, this species departs for wintering grounds. They either travel in small scattered groups of 20 to 50 birds, or large flocks of up to 1,000 individuals. ("Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola", 2013; Sibley, et al., 2009)

Home Range

There is currently little information regarding the exact home range size of wood sandpipers.

Communication and Perception

Wood sandpipers produce loud vocalizations, with low-frequency, repetitive sounds used during flight, to defend their territory or to find a potential mate. Their flight call is, 'chiff-if' or 'chiff-if-iff'. They may produce a sharp, repetitive 'chip' alarm call when they are distressed or perceive danger. Their song is enchanting and sounds similar to the song produced by redshanks (Tringa tetanus). They also perform aerial and ground displays for breeding purposes. These displays are well suited for their open habitat, as it allows them to be viewed by other birds over long distances. (Hayman, et al., 1986; Sibley, et al., 2009)

Food Habits

Wood sandpipers consume dietary items ranging from plants to animals. Among animals, this species consumes mollusks, earthworms, arthropods, crustaceans, fishes, spiders, frogs and larval midges. Wood sandpipers also eat seeds, grains, nuts and algae. ("Tringa glareola — Wood Sandpiper", 2013; Székely and Bamberger, 1992)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • fish
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • mollusks
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • algae


Their predators mostly prey on their nests. Their known predators include foxes, weasels, gulls, jaegers, falcons and hawks. This may encourage their continuous migratory patterns. When falcons attack, they attempt to separate a bird from its flock. When wood sandpipers are attacked by a predator, they form thick, coordinated flocks that synchronously turn at a high velocity, forming waves of motion. These birds may also feign an injury. In such cases, the bird pretends to have a broken wing and drag its wing or tail as it slowly flutters away from the nest. They also may flash brightly contrasting feathers such as wing-bars. This tactic is thought to make them look like they have a second pair of legs. During such behavior, they erect their feathers to resemble fur and squeal, while zigzagging along the ground. Wood sandpipers are also vulnerable to the bacteria Clostridium botulinum, which causes avian botulism and Plasmodium relictum, which causes avian malaria. ("Mortality Threats to Birds - Avian Malaria (Plasmodium relictum)", 2010; "Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola", 2013; Ehrlich, et al., 1988; Lank, et al., 2003; "Botulism", 2003; Sibley, et al., 2009)

Ecosystem Roles

Wood sandpipers prey on a variety of organisms including frogs, fishes, insects, arachnids, mollusks and earthworms. Due to their diet, they spread seeds around their ecosystem through their feces. They may also host blood parasites. ("Tringa glareola — Wood Sandpiper", 2013; Earle and Underhill, 1992)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Adult and juvenile birds are hunted for food by humans. Wild individuals are also caught and kept as pets. ("Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola", 2013)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This species has been known to carry the West Nile Virus, which poses a threat to human health. (Rappole, et al., 2000)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans
    • carries human disease

Conservation Status

This species is currently not at risk of extinction and has stable levels of population growth. However, habitat loss is their largest conservation concern, due to the deterioration of their migration grounds. Human interference, such as aerial transportation, jet skis and hunting are also potential threats. Other issues that affect their conservation status include pollution, climate change, biological resource use, mining, invasive species, disease and agriculture. This species may be exploited in European countries, such as Finland, due to wetland drainage and destruction of their environments. ("Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola", 2013; "Tringa glareola — Wood Sandpiper", 2013; Sibley, et al., 2009)


Amy E. Buettner (author), Bridgewater College, Joemar P. Pazos (author), Bridgewater College, Tamara Johnstone-Yellin (editor), Bridgewater College, Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

brackish water

areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species


used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.

cooperative breeder

helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own


having a worldwide distribution. Found on all continents (except maybe Antarctica) and in all biogeographic provinces; or in all the major oceans (Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


an animal that mainly eats fish

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


2012. "AnAge entry for Tringa glareola" (On-line). AnAge: The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database. Accessed February 26, 2013 at

Penn State Erie. 2003. "Botulism" (On-line). Pennsylvania Sea Grant. Accessed April 03, 2013 at

American Bird Conservancy. 2010. "Mortality Threats to Birds - Avian Malaria (Plasmodium relictum)" (On-line). American Bird Conservancy. Accessed April 02, 2013 at

2011. "Tringa glareola - Wood sandpiper" (On-line). Gateway To Wildpro Multimedia. Accessed February 24, 2013 at

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. 2013. "Tringa glareola — Wood Sandpiper" (On-line). Accessed February 23, 2013 at

BirdLife International. 2013. "Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola" (On-line). BirdLife International. Accessed February 23, 2013 at

2002. "Wood Sandpiper" (On-line). What Accessed February 27, 2013 at

2004. "World Biomes" (On-line). Kids Do Ecology. Accessed February 24, 2013 at

Alderfer, J. 2006. National Geographic complete birds of North America. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

Alsop III, F. 2001. Smithsonian birds of North America. New York: DK Publishing, Inc..

Baicich, P., C. Harrison. 2005. Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Earle, R., L. Underhill. 1992. Absence of haematozoa in some Charadriiformes breeding in the Taimyr Peninsula, Russia. Ardea, 81: 21-24.

Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. "Sandpipers, Social Systems, and Territoriality" (On-line). Accessed February 27, 2013 at,_Social.html.

Hayman, P., J. Marchant, T. Prater. 1986. Shorebirds: An identification guide. Boston Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Lank, D., R. Butler, J. Ireland, R. Ydenberg. 2003. Effects of predation danger on migration strategies of sandpipers. OIKOS Synthesizing Ecology, 103: 303-319.

Rappole, J., S. Derrickson, H. Zdenek. 2000. Migratory birds and the spread of West Nile virus in the Western hemisphere. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 6:4: 319-328.

Sibley, D., C. Elphick, J. Dunning. 2009. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. New York: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Székely, T., Z. Bamberger. 1992. Predation of Waders (Charadrii) on Prey Populations: An Exclosure Experiment. Journal of Animal Ecology, 61, No. 2: 447-456.