Sanderling

Scientific name: Calidris alba

Did you know: The Sanderling, a sprightly beachcomber, is known for its unique “bicycling” leg action as it scurries along the shorelines.

What Do Sanderlings Look Like? (how to identify them)

Sanderlings are small, robust waders with a distinctive appearance. They sport a short, straight black bill and mid-length black legs, making them easy to spot. Above, they’re a pale grey, and below, they’re brilliantly white. A noticeable black mark adorns their shoulder, aligning with the folded wing. 

While Sanderlings are not UK breeders, they are familiar winter visitors and passage migrants during spring and autumn, travelling to and from their breeding grounds in the high Arctic.

Differences Between Male And Female Sanderlings

Interestingly, male and female Sanderlings share a similar plumage and size, making it challenging to distinguish between them visually. However, during the breeding season, they may exhibit subtle variations in their vibrant breeding feathers.

What Do Sanderlings Eat?

These energetic birds primarily feast on small marine worms, crustaceans, and molluscs. Their foraging style is unique, often seen running along beaches, following the ebb and flow of the waves to catch their prey.

Where Do Sanderlings Live? (inc. migration info)

Sanderlings have a broad habitat range. They breed in the Arctic’s remote tundra and migrate impressive distances to winter along coastlines worldwide, including South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. The UK serves as a key wintering ground for these birds, with significant numbers arriving each year.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Sanderlings)

Sanderlings are not known for their vocal prowess, but they do make soft, melodious calls, particularly during their breeding season in the Arctic tundra. These calls are an integral part of their social interactions and mating rituals.

Fun Sanderling Facts (kid friendly)

  • Sanderlings can travel up to 10,000 km from their breeding to wintering grounds!
  • They only have three toes on each foot – no hind toe.
  • Sanderlings change colour: they’re paler in winter and have a reddish-brown hue in summer.
  • These birds are sometimes nicknamed “peeps” due to their small size and adorable appearance.
  • A group of Sanderlings is known as a “grain” of Sanderlings.
  • They can live up to 7 years or more.
  • Sanderlings are expert runners and can outrun human joggers on the beach.
  • These birds are part of the AEWA agreement, focusing on the conservation of waterbirds.

Sanderling 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 Sanderling

Diet: Small marine worms, crustaceans and molluscs.
Bird Family: Sandpipers, snipes and phalaropes
Length: 20-21cm
Wingspan: 36-39cm
Weight: 50-60g
Scientific Name: Calidris alba

The Sanderling Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

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