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Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia


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Spotted Sandpiper, breeding
credit: Mdf/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Scolopacidae, Sandpipers view all from this family

Description ADULT In summer plumage, has rich brown upperparts marked with dark spots and streaks on back. Underparts are whitish, but boldly marked with dark spots; these are particularly intense on throat and chest. Note the dark eyestripe and pale white supercilium. Bill is pale pinkish orange and legs are more pinkish yellow. In winter plumage, upperparts are uniform gray-brown. Head is mainly buffy brown, but note pale supercilium and throat. Chest is buffy brown and note clear demarcation from otherwise white underparts. Bill is pale and legs are pale pink. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but note the black and buff barring on wing coverts.

Dimensions Length: 7 1/2" (19 cm)

Habitat Widespread and common in breeding season, typically found along stony or gravelly shores and steep banks of streams and lakes. Winters mainly in Central and South America but some linger in southern U.S., particularly on coasts. Migrants turn up on inland pools and lakes, and on coastal lagoons and estuaries.

Observation Tips Almost any unpolluted, relatively undisturbed stream or lake within summer range is likely to accommodate the species.

Range California, Plains, Eastern Canada, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Alaska, Great Lakes, Southwest, New England, Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Texas, Western Canada, Southeast

Voice Utters a sharp weet or peet-weet-weetÖ. Display song comprises whistling notes.

Discussion Widespread and familiar sandpiper with distinctive habits and unique and diagnostic summer plumage. Typically seen feeding on the margins of pools, streams, and lakes; as it walks, constantly bobs its body up and down. Usually flies low over water on bowed wings with shallow, rapid wingbeats; tail looks rather long and in fact, at rest, it extends well beyond wings. Feeds on aquatic invertebrates and is usually solitary. Sexes are similar.