Calidris fuscicolliswhite-rumped sandpiper

Geographic Range

White-rumped sandpipers, Calidris fuscicollis, are primarily located in the western hemisphere. Their breeding range includes northern Canada and the tip of northern Alaska, extending as far north as Ellesmere and the Devon Islands. White-rumped sandpipers migrate southward through the eastern half of North America through the Great Plains, throughout most of South America. Their non-breeding range is limited to the eastern and southern coast of South America, including southern Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina. This range reaches as far south as Patagonia and the South Shetland Islands. (BirdLife International, 2017; Harrington, et al., 1991; Korczak-Abshire, et al., 2011; Wennerberg, et al., 2002)


Within their breeding range, white-rumped sandpipers dwell in marshy lakes or ponds in the wet tundra. They can also be found within highly-vegetated areas or places of shrubbery. White-rumped sandpipers are found inland and in coastal areas. In their winter range, these birds are found along the edges of saltmarshes, canals, and streams as well as flooded fields.

As shorebirds, their minimum elevation is 0 m, but maximum elevation has not been reported. (Parmelee, 1992)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • coastal
  • Range elevation
    0 (low) m
    0.00 (low) ft

Physical Description

Unlike their common name, white-rumped sandpipers don't actually have a white rump. They instead have a white band on their uppertail coverts, which are just posterior to the rump and typically cover the bases of the tail feathers. This white band is most visible when the birds are in flight. Both sexes weigh between 40g to 60g and have total lengths between 170mm and 185mm. Their wingspan is between 40cm and 44cm.

As juveniles, the plumage on their backs from the base of their neck to the tip of their wings is black with streaked reddish-brown. The streaks run from the crown to the scapulars. Their tail is grayish-black with pale buff edges. As adults, the area that was streaked is mostly brown. The tail is reddish-brown with the edges of the feathers being a light grey. They have multiple tones of gray plumage. Their wing tips extend past the tail feathers. Their bill is short, thin and straight - darker on the upper mandible than on the pale yellow lower mandible. These birds have brown eyes, and legs that are shades of brown, sometimes olive. Sexes are patterned alike.

Sandpipers are often difficult to identify. These birds are more gray in overall appearance than the similar Baird's sandpiper (Calidris bairdii). White-rumped sandpipers' long wings (which extend past the tail feathers) also differentiate them from other members of the genus. (Parmelee, 1992)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    40 to 60 g
    1.41 to 2.11 oz
  • Range length
    170 to 185 mm
    6.69 to 7.28 in
  • Range wingspan
    40 to 44 cm
    15.75 to 17.32 in


White-rumped sandpipers use courtship rituals to attract mates. Males establish territories and females choose the males for pairing. Once paired, they begin by flying upward beside one another until they reach ca. 10m to 25m above ground. The pair then begins to hover around each another, the male above the female. The males sometimes make sounds similar buzzing or oinking while in flight. They extend their throats while in flight, too. Both members hover between 5s and 10s and begin their slow descent. Males can do a single-wing display on the ground, in which they stretch out one of their wings for the potential mate. They may drag this wing, and prance in a half-circle around the female.

Females brood once a year, where males can sire multiple broods per breeding season.

After mating, the female leaves to establish a cup nest she builds using grasses and moss. (McCaffery, 1983; Parmelee, 1992)

The breeding season for white-rumped sandpipers spans from early/mid-June through early August. Females make their own nests and lay approximately 4 eggs per season with an incubation period of 22 days. Eggs have been reported to have average dimensions of 33.42 mm x 23.83 mm.

Females stay with the nest until the young are hatched and independent. She spends time scanning, cowering, and turning eggs until they hatch. It can take up to 17 hours for each egg to hatch. Birth mass of a newly-hatched egg is ca. 5g. The precocial young can leave nest as early as 2.5 hours after hatching, and most depart by 17 hours. They do return to the nest. The average time to independence is between 16-17 days, which coincides with the time until the young can accomplish flights that are beyond short distances.

Parmelee (1992) presumes that both sexes reach sexual maturity after their first year, and are capable of breeding the following June. (Baicich, 2005; Cantar and Montgomerie, 1985; Parmelee, 1992)

  • Breeding interval
    White-rumped sandpipers breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
  • Average eggs per season
  • Average time to hatching
    22 days
  • Range fledging age
    16 to 17 days
  • Range time to independence
    16 to 17 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Female white-rumped sandpipers brood and raise their young alone. They build the next, protect the eggs, and care for the young until they fledge. Females can move their broods up to 2km away from drier areas to more wet habitats for better foraging opportunities.

Males provide no parental care beyond the act of mating. (Parmelee, 1992)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female


Little is known about the lifespan and longevity of white-rumped sandpipers, but they are reported to live up to 7 years. In other members of their genus, maximum lifespans are from 18-28 years. (Clapp, et al., 1982; Fransson, et al., 2010)


When on the ground, white-rumped sandpipers walk and do not hop. They fly swiftly and firmly, reaching speeds of up to 80km/h. They do have the ability to swim but rarely do so. Males defend their territories with much aggression, and will ward off invaders. Males will charge one another, heads down, and then take off. They'll peck at each others' wings up to 25cm off the ground. Females do not have aggressive encounters. After a nest is made and eggs are laid, the male will abandon the territory.

These birds typically are diurnal, vocalizing only in daylight hours. Their feeding in coastal areas is strongly related to the schedule of the tides. When tides are low and prey items are exposed, these birds may forage non-stop.

They tend to be nonsocial during the breeding season, and social during migratory flight and on wintering grounds.

It has been noted that white-rumped sandpipers begin to migrate in mid-August to early-September. They can fly up to 4000km in one hop. One of their most popular staging locations is within the Great Plains. (Parmelee, 1992)

  • Average territory size
    350 m^2

Home Range

During breeding season, white-rumped sandpiper home ranges have been measured to average between 2.8ha and 6ha. Males defend territories with much aggression. When foraging, individuals may hold small territories, about 350 square meters, and may chase intruders up to 70m away, once detected. (Parmelee, 1992)

Communication and Perception

White-rumped sandpiper males use calls to communicate. Their flight call is described as high-pitched and weak. They vocalize primarily during daylight hours. Outside of the breeding range, males use calls described as "prink, prink" or "tzeep, tzip." Within their breeding grounds, calls resemble the buzz of a running fishing reel. They primarily vocalize within their breeding range and other territorial locations. Within the breeding range, males use several different complex vocalizations. Their aerial call has been noted as similar to the shifting of a typewriter with "quo-ick" sounds repeated three and eight times.

Females rarely make noise. They've only been noted to vocalize when flushed from a nest. There, they might give a non-specific alarm call, while pretending to have a broken wing (a visual display).

Males may defend territories by visual and tactile displays. They may attack one aother in flight, or may charge one another on the ground. Males may attract females using a number of courtship displays, which include vocalizations and visual efforts. (Parmelee, 1992)

Food Habits

White-rumped sandpipers primarily forage on invertebrates. These invertebrates include insects, snails, and some aquatic worms. Seeds are rarely found in their diet. During migration, one of their primary food sources are polychaetes Travisia olens. On breeding grounds, white-rumped sandpipers dig deeply into the wet ground to find prey. This process involves one probing bill into the ground, either half way or completely in, between two or three times. They then move to a different location and repeat process.

A number of studies have investigated stomach contents of these birds. In one study, 77% of their diet is animals: 50% bloodworms, 25% snails (Planorbis), and 5% true bugs (specifically Corixa reticulata). Seeds comprise the remaining 23% of their diet. The breakdown in seed components is 33.3% seeds in the aster family, 30% bigpod sesbania Sesbania herbacea and 36.7% denseflower knotweed Persicaria glabra. Other studies documented a wider variety of animal groups, including leeches, marine and earthworms, amphipods, grasshoppers, beetles, craneflies, and pieces of moss. (Hernandez and Bala, 2001; Montalti, et al., 2002; Parmelee, 1992)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


Predation occurs primarily by parasitic jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus). They prey on white-rumped sandpipers more than any other predator. Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) will prey on eggs and young of white-rumped sandpipers. Peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) will prey on these birds, as well. Less commonly, predators include pomarine jaegers (Stercorarius pomarinus) and long-tailed jaegers (Stercorarius longicaudus).

Staying in a flock provides some protection from predators. Females will try to distract potential egg predators by faking a broken wing. (Parmelee, 1992)

Ecosystem Roles

Tetrameres megahasmidiata is a known roundworm parasite of white-rumped sandpipers found in Argentina. In Belize, a single white-rumped sandpiper housed a trematode, Microphallus kinsellae, two cestodes Nadejdolepis litoralis and Nadejdolepis paranitidulans, and an acanthocephalan Arhythmorhynchus longicolle.

They serve as prey for a parasitic jaegers (Stercorarius parasiticus), and prey upon a variety of animals (insects, snails, bloodworms) and plant seeds. (Canaris and Kinsella, 2001; Cremonte, et al., 2001)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Roundworm (Tetrameres megahasmidiata)
  • Trematode (Microphallus kinsellae)
  • Cestode (Nadejdolepis litoralis)
  • Cestode (Nadejdolepis paranitidulans)
  • Acanthocephalan (Arhythmorhynchus longicolle)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Birdwatchers come out to locations such as the Delaware Bay to observe shorebirds. Birdwatchers reported in a study that they spend between $32-$142 per trip per household (household size=1.66). They also reported that they spend between $131-$582 per season per household (season=5 to 6 weeks). (Edwards, et al., 2011)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative economic impacts of white-rumped sandpipers on humans.

Conservation Status

The IUCN Redlist labels white-rumped sandpipers as a species of "Least Concern" with a decreasing status. This species is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as are all migratory birds, This protection is defined as banning people from importing, exporting these birds or parts thereof, They can't buy or sell them, or possess them. They are not listed on the CITES listed, the Us.S. Federal list, or the State of Michigan List.

Current and future threats to these birds include climate change, and habitat loss and degradation. They were once a hunted species for human consumption but this is no longer permitted.

Although the population trend is decreasing, researchers do not believe that it is decreasing rapidly enough to be considered for a higher status. Conservation measures, such as protecting coastal or inland marshes that these birds use as stopover sites, can help with current waterfowl strategies. Minimizing human disturbance (both direct and indirect, the latter via water losses from agricultural uses), and allowing the wetland areas to return to natural flooding stages, would also be helpful. (BirdLife International, 2017; Parmelee, 1992)


Payton Smith (author), Radford University, Layne DiBuono (editor), Radford University, Lindsey Lee (editor), Radford University, Kioshi Lettsome (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


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


union of egg and spermatozoan


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).


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 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.


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


the regions of the earth that surround the north and south poles, from the north pole to 60 degrees north and from the south pole to 60 degrees south.


having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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


uses touch to communicate


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).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


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BirdLife International, 2017. "Calidris fuscicollis" (On-line). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22693399A119296025. Accessed September 07, 2018 at

Canaris, A., J. Kinsella. 2001. Helminth parasites in six species of shorebirds (Charadrii) from the coast of Belize.. Memorias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, 96/6: 827/830.

Cantar, R., R. Montgomerie. 1985. The influence of weather on incubation scheduling of the white-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis): A uniparental incubator in a cold environment. Behaviour, 95/3-4: 261-289.

Cartar, R., R. Montgomerie. 1987. Day-to-day variation in nest attentiveness of white-rumped sandpipers. The Condor, 89/2: 252-260.

Clapp, R., K. Klimkiewicz, J. Kennard. 1982. Longevity records of North American birds: Gaviidae through Alcidae. Journal of Field Ornithology, 53/2: 81/208.

Cremonte, F., M. Digiani, L. Bala, G. Navone. 2001. Tetrameres (Tetrameres) megaphasmidiata n. sp. (Nematoda: Tetrameridae), a parasite of the two-banded plover, Charadrius falklandicus, and white-rumped sandpiper, Calidris fuscicollis, from Patagonia, Argentina.. Journal of Parasitology, 87/1: 148-151.

Edwards, P., G. Parsons, K. Myers. 2011. The economic value of viewing migratory shorebirds on the Delaware Bay: An application of the single site travel cost model using on-site data. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 16/6: 435-444.

Fransson, T., T. Kolehmainen, C. Kroon, L. Jansson, T. Wenninger. 2010. "Longevity List" (On-line). Euring: Co-ordinating bird ringing throughout Europe. Accessed October 23, 2018 at

Harrington, B., F. Leeuwenberg, S. Lara Resende, R. McNeil, B. Thomas, J. Grear, E. Martinez. 1991. Migration and mass change of white-rumped sandpipers in North and South America. The Wilson Bulletin, 103/4: 621-636.

Hernandez, M., L. Bala. 2001. Prey selection and foraging patterns of the white-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) at Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina. Ornitologia Neotropical, 18/1: 37-46.

Holmes, R., F. Pitelka. 1964. Breeding behavior and taxonomic relationships of the curlew sandpiper. The Auk, 81/3: 362-379.

Korczak-Abshire, M., P. Angiel, G. Wierzbicki. 2011. Records of white-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis) on the South Shetland Islands. The Polar Record, 47/3: 262-267.

McCaffery, B. 1983. Breeding flight display in the female white-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis). The Auk, 100/2: 500-501.

Montalti, D., A. Arambarri, G. Soave, D. Carlos, A. Camperi. 2002. Seeds in the diet of the white-rumped sandpiper in Argentina. Waterbirds, 26/2: 166-168.

Parmelee, D. 1992. "White-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)" (On-line). In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, P. R. Stettenheim, and F. B. Gill, Editors). Accessed September 07, 2018 at

Parmelee, D., D. Greiner, W. Graul. 1968. Summer schedule and breeding biology of the white-rumped sandpiper in the central Canadian arctic. The Wilson Bulletin, 80/1: 4-29.

Reed, C. 1965. North American Birds Eggs. New York, New York: Dover Publications, Inc..

Smith, P., H. Gilchrist, J. Smith. 2006. Effects of nest habitat, food, and parental behavior on shorebird nest success. The Condor, 109/1: 15-31.

Wennerberg, L., M. Klaassen, A. Lindstrom. 2002. Geographical variation and population structure in the white-rumped sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis as shown by morphology, mitochondrial DNA and carbon isotope ratios. Oecologia, 131/1: 380-390.