SHOREBIRDS of North America

Most Shorebirds walk along shores probing for food with their thin sensitive bills. Bill length varies considerably so differing species can work the same shore and obtain different food supplies. Shorebirds include sandpipers, godwits, stilts, oystercatchers, plovers, and many more. Shorebirds belong to the Charadriiformes order which also includes the Gulls and Allies.
    Note: the term Shorebirds is used in the Americas; elsewhere "waders" is used. We will reserve "waders" for herons and allies.



Sandpipers and Allies

Order Charadriiformes    Family Scolopacidae

Suborder Scolopaci contains one family, Scolopacidae. This family contrains the shorter-blled sandpipers and allies and also longer-billed species such as the godwits and curlews.


Genus Aphriza - 1 species

Surfbird  Aphriza virgata  Found: West Coast of The Americas
The breeding Surfbird has dark spots on breast and flanks; rusty wings; gray bill, orange near base; yellow legs. The nonbreeding adult bird has gray upperparts; lighter spots on breast and flanks. Surfbird usually found on rocky shores.
Similar to: Black Turnstone. Surfbird has yellow legs; Black Turnstone has dull reddish-brown legs.
Similar to: Great Knot. Great Knot is larger than Surfbird and its bill is proportionally longer.
Image by: 1, 3, 4) Len Blumin - Bodega Bay, California  2, 6) Dick Daniels - Half Moon Bay, California    5) Alan D. Wilson -Near Victoria, British Columbia 
1) First summer  2) Juvenile  3) Nonbreeding  4, 5) Breeding  6) Surfbird with Black Turnstone.




Genus Calidris
Calidrids have  sensitive bills that they use to probe along the shoreline to search for food. They often move their feet very rapidly as they run along the water's edge. They fly long distances and many of the species are found on a number of continents.

Dunlin Calidris alpina   Found: North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia
The breeding Dunlin has reddish-brown back and head; black belly; long black drooping bill. Nonbreeding adult has brown upperparts; white underparts.
Similar to: Broad-billed Sandpiper. Broad-billed Sandpiper slightly smaller than the Dunlin, but with a longer straighter bill, and shorter legs. [Wikipedia]
Similar to: Curlew Sandpiper in the nonbreeding season. The Curlew Sandpiper has a longer and more curved bill than the Dunlin. The Curlew Sandpiper prefers a fresh water habitat, the Dunlin prefers salt water.
Similar to: Sanderling. Dunlin bill is longer. Sanderling bill is staighter and thicker at base.
Image by: 1, 3, 4, 5,  6, 7, 8, 9) Dick Daniels - North Carolina  2) Dick - Biloxi, Mississippi 
1 - 4) Nonbreeding  5 - 8) Breeding


Knot, Red Calidris canutus   Found: The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia
The breeding Red Knot has mottled gray upperparts; reddish head and underparts with light colored rear belly; dark legs, medium thin dark bill. The nonbreeding adult has gray upperpart including the head; pale gray underparts; light eye-line; yellowish-green legs.
Similar to: Sanderling. Nonbreeding Red Knot and Sanderling have straight black bill and black feet. But size difference and rapid movement of Sanderling makes it easy to differentiate between them.
Image by: 1) Mick - France  2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) Dick - North Carolina  4) Dick - Sanibel Island, Florida 
1, 2) Juvenile  3) Juvenile, adult 4) Nonbreeding adult  5 - 9) Breeding adult




Sanderling Calidris alba   Found: The Americas, Europe, Africa, Australia
The breeding Sanderling has mottled rufous upperparts; white underparts; black bill and feet. Nonbreeding adult has light gray upperparts. It is characteristicly see running at shores edge with rapidly moving feet.
Similar to: Dunlin. Dunlin bill is longer. Sanderling bill is staighter and thicker at base.
Similar to: Red Knot. Nonbreeding Red Knot and Sanderling have straight black bill and black feet. But size difference and rapid movement of Sanderling makes it easy to differentiate between them.
Similar to: Semipalmated Sandpiper. Nonbreeding Sanderling upperparts are gray; breeding Sanderling upperparts are rufous. Semipalmated Sandpiper is gray-brown.
Image by: 1) Dick Daniels - Homer, Alaska  2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) Dick - North Carolina  
1) Juvenile  8) Breeding


Sandpiper, Baird's Calidris bairdii     Found: The Americas
The breeding Baird's Sandpiper has black bill and feet; mottled brown on top; mainly white underparts; black rump. The nonbreeding adult has paler brown upperparts.
Similar to: Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper. Baird's Sandpiper considerably larger than  Western and Semipalmated sandpipers. Also, wings of standing Baird's Sandpiper extend beyond tail, but this is not the case for Western and Semipalmated  sandpipers.
Similar to: White-rumped Sandpiper, When flying, the White-rumped Piper has a visible white rump, the Baird's Sandpiper does not.
Image by: 1)  Bill Bouton - California  2) Maggie Smith - Old Creek, Cayucos, California   3)  Dominic Sherony  4) Seabrooke Leckie - Toronto
1, 2) Juvenile


Sandpiper, Curlew Calidris ferruginea Found: North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia
The breeding Curlew Sandpiper has mottled gray upperparts; red underparts; black down-curved bill. The nonbreeding adult has lighter gray upperparts; white underparts.
Similar to: the Dunlin in the nonbreeding season. The Curlew Sandpiper has a longer and more curved bill than the Dunlin. The Curlew Sandpiper prefers a fresh water habitat, the Dunlin prefers salt water.
Iage by:  1) Kev Chapman  2) Lip Kee Yap - Buloh Wetland Reserve, Singapore  3, 4) Dick Daniels - Madagascar   5) Ómar Runólfsson - Iceland   6, 8) Mick Sway   7) Changhua Coast Conservation Action
6, 7, 8) Breeding


Sandpiper, Least Calidris minutilla   Found: The Americas
The breeding Least Sandpiper has mottled brown upperparts; some mottling on upper breast; rest of underparts white; light colored supercilium; short straight dark bill; greenish-yellow legs. Nonbreeding adult has grayish-brown upperparts. It is the smallest of the Calidris.
Image by:   1) Mike Baird - California  2) Len Blumin  - Sacramento Landing, California,    3) Alan D. Wilson - , British Columbia
    5, 7) Dick Daniels - North Carolina  4) New Jersy Birds 6) Dick - New Jersey
1) Nonbreeding  2 - 7) Breeding



Sandpiper, Pectoral Calidris melanotos   Found: The Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand
The breeding Pectoral Sandpiper has brown upperparts; white underparts with brown upper breast; yellowish legs; olive bill with darker tip. The nonbreeding adult has gray-brown back.
Similar to: Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.  The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper has a strong eye-ring conpared to the Pectoral Sandpiper.
Image by:  1) Alan D. Wilson - British Columbia    2) Dick Daniels - New Jersey  3) Cláudio Timm - Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil  4)  Dominic Sherony


Sandpiper, Purple Calidris maritima Found: North America, Europe, Asia, Africa
The breeding Purple Sandpiper is dark on top; mainly white underparts; dark bill with yellow base; yellow legs. Nonbreeding adult is dark gray on top with perhaps a purplish tint.
Similar to: Rock Sandpiper. Nonbreeding adults can be difficult to tell apart. Range can sometimes be helpful.
Image by:  1) Becky Gregory - Maryland  2) Mjobling
     3) S Fiztgerald - Texas  4) Paul Roberts - Great Britain  5) Andreas Trepte 
1) Juvenile 2) Nonbreeding  3, 4, 5) Breeding



Sandpiper, Rock Calidris ptilocnemis   Found: northern Pacific coast of North America, Asia
The breeding Rock Sandpiper has rufous back with gray near the flanks; blackish belly patch; pale head with darker top; dark bill; dark legs with yellow tinge. The nonbreeding adult has gray back; lighter belly; dark bill with yellow-green base; yellow legs.
Similar to: Purple Sandpiper. Nonbreeding adults can be difficult to tell apart. Range can sometimes be helpful.
Image by: 1) Dick Daniels - Alaska   2) Calypso Orchid  3)  Marcel Holyoak - California  4) Alan D. Wilson - Alaska
1) Juvenile  2, 3) Nonbreeding  4) Breeding


Sandpiper, Semipalmated Calidris pusilla   Found: The Americas
The Semipalmated Sandpiper has dark gray-brown upperparts; lighter gray-brown neck; white underparts; short straight black bill; black legs; slight webbing between toes.
Similar to: Baird's Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's / White-rumped Sandpiper considerably larger than Semipalmated Sandpiper. Wings of standing Baird's / White-rumped extend beyond tail, but not Semipalmated.
Simlar to: Sanderling. Nonbreeding Sanderling upperparts are gray; breeding Sanderling upperparts are rufous. Semipalmated Sandpiper is gray-brown.
Similar to: Western Sandpiper. Western Sandpipter tends to have a longer and more slender bill than the Semipalmated Sandpiper. Western Sandpiper acquires winter plumage much earlier in the autumn than Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Image by:  1, 2, 3, 4) Dick Daniels - North Carolina 


Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Calidris acuminata   Found: North America (rare), Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand
The breeding Sharp-tailed Sandpiper has rich brown upperparts and breast; white belly; white eye-ring; chestnut crown; light supercilium. The nonbreeding adult has gray upperparts.
Similar to: Pectoral Sandpiper.  The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper has a strong eye-ring conpared to the Pectoral Sandpiper.
Image by: 1) Len Blumin - California  2, 4) Alnus - Taiwan  3) Dick Daniels - Australia  
1) Juvenile  4) Breeding


Sandpiper, Stilt  Calidris himantopus  Found: The Americas
The breeding Stilt Sandpiper has gray-brown upperparts; heavily barred black and white upperparts; long slightly downturned black bill; white supercilium; long gray-green legs. Nonbreeding adult has gray upperparts; yellow-green legs.
Similar to: Wilson's Phalarope. Nonbreeding Stilt Sandpipers and nonbreeding Wilson's Phalarope are similar. Wilson's Phalarope has white underparts; Stilt Sandpiper has gray breast.
Image by: 1) Len Blumin - Indian Point Park, Texas  2) Dan Pancamo    3)  Dominic Sherony   4) Kevin Pietrzak 5)   Francesco Veronesi
3, 4, 5) Breeding adults



Sandpiper, Western Calidris mauri   Found: The Americas
The breeding Western Sandpiper has rufous upperparts; white underparts; spotted breast; white supercilium; medium length bill with slight droop; black legs. The nonbreeding adult has gray upperparts; nonspotted underparts.
Similar to: Baird's Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's / White-rumped Sandpiper considerably larger than Western Sandpiper. Wings of standing Baird's / White-rumped extend beyond tail, but not Western Sandpiper.
Simlar to: Sanderling. Nonbreeding Sanderling upperparts are gray; breeding Sanderling upperparts are rufous. Western Sandpiper is brown.
Similar to: Semipalmated Sandpiper. Western Sandpipter tends to have a longer and more slender bill than the Semipalmated Sandpiper. Western Sandpiper acquires winter plumage much earlier in the autumn than Semipalmated.
Image by: 1)   Len Blumin - California    2) Alan D. Wilson - British Columbia  7 5)   Jerry Oldenettel - New Mexico  3, 4) Dick Daniels - North Carolina
1) Juvenile  5) Breeding



Sandpiper, White-rumped  Calidris fuscicollis  Found: The Americas
The breeding White-rumped Sandpiper has graybrown upperparts; mainly white underparts; streaked breast and flanks; white rump; white supercilium; wings extend beyond tail when on the ground. The nonbreeding adult has gray upperparts.
Similar to: Baird's Sandpiper, When flying, the White-rumped Piper has a visible white rump, the Baird's Sandpiper does not.
Similar to: Western Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper. White-rumped Sandpiper considerably larger than  Western and Semipalmated sandpipers. Also, wings of standing Baird's Sandpiper extend beyond tail, but this is not the case for Western and Semipalmated  sandpipers.
Image by:  1, 2, 3) Cláudio Timm - Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil


Stint, Little Calidris minuta   Found: North America (rarely) Europe, Asia, Africa, Australa
The breeding Little Stint has orange and rufous upperparts and upper breast; white underparts; short dark bill. The nonbreeding adult has gray upperparts.
Similar to: Red-necked Stint. Difficult to tell apart except at breeding time, then the Red-necked Stint has a red neck and the Little Stint has a white neck.
Image by: 1) Lip Kee Yap  2) Andreas Trepte  3) Ken Billington - Austria  4, 5) Dick Daniels - Kenya



Stint, Red-necked Calidris ruficollis   Found: The Americas (occasional), Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia
The breeding Red-necked Stint has chestnut back; pinkish chestnut head, neck, breast; black legs. The nonbreeding adult has gray upperparts.
Similar to: Little Stint. Difficult to tell apart except at breeding time, then the Red-necked Stint has a red neck and the Little Stint has a white neck.
Image by: 1) JJ Harrison - Tasmania, Australia   2) sunphlo - Australia   3) Wayne Butterworth    4) David Cook  - Cairns, QLD, Australia    5) Alpsdake - Japan  
1, 2) Nonbreeding 5) Breeding




Genus Philomachus - 1 species

age by: 1, 4, 5, 7) Dick Daniels - Sylvan Heights  2) Marek Szczepanek   3) Len Blumin - California 
    6, 8) Sandy Cole - Sylvan Heights    9) Dick Daniels - Tanzania   10) Cristiano Crolle - near Novara, Italy
1) Juvenile  2) Nonbreeding female  3) Breeding female  4 - 9) Males in breeding season



Image by: 1, 4, 5, 7) Dick Daniels - Sylvan Heights  2) Marek Szczepanek   3) Len Blumin - Marin County, California   6, 8) Sandy Cole - Sylvan Heights    9) Dick Daniels - Tanzania
1) Juvenile  2) Nonbreeding female  3) Breeding female  4 - 8) Males in breeding season






Genus Renaria

Turnstone, Black Renaria melanocephala  Found: west coast of North America
The breeding Black Turnstone has plump appearance; black upperparts and breast; white belly; short dark bill; dull reddish-brown legs. The head has white spots, especially on the forehead and above base of bill. The nonbreeding adult has dark brown upperparts and breast; brown head with faint supercilium.
Similar to: Ruddy Turnstone. Black Turnstone is darker than Ruddy Turnstone. Black Turnstone has solid colored breast; Ruddy Turnstone has dark necklace over a white breast.
Similar to: Surfbird. Black Turnstone is darker than Surfbird. Black Turnstone has upturned bill; Surfbird has straight bill.
Image by: 1) Elaine R. Wilson - California   2) Alan D. Wilson -, La Jolla, California 3, 5, 7, 8) Dick - Half Moon Bay, California  6) Len Blumin - Costa Rica  
1 - 5) Nonbreeding  6) Breeding  7, 8 ) Surfbird and Black Turnstone.


Turnstone, Ruddy Arenaria interpres   North America, Europe, Asia, and visits many other coastlines
The breeding Ruddy Turnstone has plump appearance; reddish-brown upperparts with black markings; mostly white head with black pattern around eyes; white underparts with black wide necklace; reddish-orange legs. Nonbreeding adult has grayish-brown upperparts and head; lighter necklace.
Similar to: Black Turnstone. Black Turnstone is darker than Ruddy Turnstone. Black Turnstone has solid colored breast; Ruddy Turnstone has dark necklace over a white breast.
Image by:  1, 2, 7, 8)  Dick Daniels - North Carolina  3) Dick - Sanibel Island, Florida   4) Dick - North Carolina  5) Dick - Negril, Jamaica  6) Chesapeak Bay Bridge, Maryland   9) Cristiano Crolle - Texel, Holland
1 - 7) Nonbreeding  8, 9) Breeding



Genus Tryngites - 1 species

Sandpiper, Buff-breasted  Tryngites subruficollis Found: The Americas, Africa
The Buff-breasted Sandpiper has brown upperparts; buff face and underparts; short dark bill; yelllow legs.
Image by: 1) Dominic Sherony  2, 3) Tim Lenz  4) Cláudio Timm - Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil





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