Purple Sandpiper

Scientific name: Calidris maritima

Did you know: Purple Sandpipers are incredibly loyal to their wintering grounds, often returning to the exact same stretch of coast year after year!

What Do Purple Sandpipers Look Like? (how to identify them)

The Purple Sandpiper is a robust, medium-sized wader, presenting a charming contrast with its dark upper body and lighter underparts. With a length of about 20-22cm, they’re slightly larger than a Dunlin

Their most striking features are the down-curved beak, bright orange legs, and a notable white wing-stripe seen during flight. In winter, their plumage shifts to a mix of brown, grey, and subtle purple tones.

Differences Between Male And Female Purple Sandpipers

Male and female Purple Sandpipers are similar in size and plumage. Identifying them based on external features can be challenging, as both sexes share the same colour patterns and physical characteristics.

What Do Purple Sandpipers Eat?

These birds have a diverse diet, consisting of winkles, insects, spiders, crustaceans, and various plants. They forage actively, and are often seen probing into the sand and rocks along the shorelines.

Where Do Purple Sandpipers Live? (inc. migration info)

Purple Sandpipers breed in the far north, including the Arctic tundra, and a few pairs nest in secret locations in Scotland. They are primarily winter visitors to the UK, preferring rocky coastlines. 

Significant numbers are found in Orkney, Shetland, and along Scotland’s east coast. In extreme cold, they may move closer to forest edges.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Purple Sandpipers)

While not particularly vocal, Purple Sandpipers do produce subtle calls. Their sounds are typically soft and low-pitched, blending seamlessly with the sounds of their coastal habitats.

Fun Purple Sandpiper Facts (kid friendly)

  • They are masters at staying balanced, even on slippery, seaweed-covered rocks.
  • Despite their name, their breeding plumage has only a slight purple tinge.
  • These birds often join flocks with Turnstones, another shorebird species.
  • They are known for their ‘dumpy’ appearance due to their stocky build.
  • Purple Sandpipers can live up to 6 years in the wild.
  • Their orange legs make them easily distinguishable among other waders.
  • In winter, they have a unique, speckled appearance with dark streaks.
  • These birds are adept at surviving harsh coastal winter conditions.
  • They show a fascinating loyalty to their wintering sites, returning to the same spots every year.

Purple Sandpiper Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Purple Sandpiper

Diet: Winkles, insects, spiders, crustaceans and plants.
Bird Family: Sandpipers, snipes and phalaropes
Length: 20-22 cm
Wingspan: 40-44 cm
Weight: 60-75 g
Scientific Name: Calidris maritima

The Purple Sandpiper Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December