Sanderling Calidris alba


The Sanderling is a cosmopolitan bird during the non-breeding season. It may be found on almost any sandy beach, anywhere on the planet! It is a well named species as it is fond and well adapted to sandy beaches. Its comical manner of foraging is to follow the waves in and out of the sand, like a crazed windup toy. The Sanderling runs at full speed chasing the wave back into the ocean, and then makes a few quick jabs for food, before the next wave comes and chases the Sanderling back to drier sands. During the non-breeding season this is a pale grey species, with an abundance of white on the underparts, giving it its specific epithet “alba” for white. However in the breeding season males in particular become a gorgeous brick red all over the upperparts and chest, and then they retreat to the highest latitudes of the Arctic. Along with the Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres) and Black-bellied Plover (Pluvialis squatarola), the Sanderling is among the northernmost of all breeding shorebirds. For such a widespread species, details of its breeding behavior are seriously understudied due to this preference for nesting so far to the north. Most of the New World’s Sanderling’s winter in Peru and Chile; and some may migrate south along the Pacific coast of North America to get to South American wintering grounds, and then move north along the Atlantic in spring! They are truly a global wanderer.

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© Gerrit Vyn

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Sanderling (Calidris alba), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: