Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus


The Stilt Sandpiper is an unusual shorebird, market gunners once knew it as the “bastard yellowlegs” as it was thought to be in between a yellowlegs and a dowitcher. In non-breeding plumages this is not far from the truth to the field observer. In some situations a Stilt Sandpiper can become lost in a group of dowitchers, foraging in the typical sewing machine motion, while in other situations it can be on par with a yellowlegs and very similar to it in many ways including having long yellowish legs. It also resembles the winter Curlew Sandpiper, and even a winter Wilson’s Phalaropes. It is such a mix of features that the Stilt Sandpiper is difficult to define, and at one time was put into its own genus. Only in breeding plumage is it truly distinctive, with a boldly barred underpart pattern and rusty on the cap and the cheek. Stilt Sandpipers sometimes winter in the southern United States, and they winter uncommonly in Mexico and Central America; by far the main wintering region is the interior of South America, south of the Amazon Basin. It is not a coastal species there, but more likely to be found in inland ponds, habitats where Pectoral Sandpipers may also be found. More work is needed to determine where the most important wintering areas are for this generally low density shorebird.

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© Arthur A. Allen

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

Recommended Citation

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