‘PEEP SHOW': WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS ON ABACO
The White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis is one of a number of sandpiper species found on Abaco. You can see a gallery HERE. Many of them are confusingly similar, and it is with a sense of relief that one picks out some particular feature on a bird that marks it out from the other species.
The white-rumped sandpiper has, for a start, a white patch that shows above the base of the tail, rather in the manner of the yellow-rumped warbler. It is the only sandpiper with such a feature, and it is conclusive of ID… if you actually see it. You’ll notice that in the header image and the one above, no such white patch is visible. So although it is undoubtedly there, the bird you happen to be looking at – perhaps at a distance – may not have arranged its position and feathers to assist you. Frankly, the birds in the WRS group below are not cooperating either, except the furthest (blurry) one.
You can’t see it on this bird either, as it forages in a pond, spreading concentric circles across the water
Nor with this one. In fact, I have looked at dozens of photos to find a clear shot of said white marking and found only one really good one… but hedged around by the thick thorny protection of copyright.
However all is not lost. There is another feature of this sandpiper species that is unique to it, at least on Abaco (it is found also in the Baird’s sandpiper, but you won’t see that bird on the island). The unusually long wings of the white-rumped sandpiper extend beyond its tail when it is on the ground. You can see this in the photos above. It is a feature that should be clearly visible as you watch a bird on the shore, even if it isn’t showing its white rump. Here’s a very helpful composite from the Crossley ID Guide (Eastern Birds). You can see the extended wing length in the birds in the foreground. And if you look at the birds in flight, you will see the white rump exposed.
Like all peeps, these birds make high-pitched weebling sounds, which I have seen described as ‘like a child’s squeaky toy’. Here’s a small flock make a characteristic noise.
Ian Cruickshank / Xeno Canto
You will often see a WRS mixed up in a group of other shorebirds, so the wing-length ID method will help pick it out. Also, it will be notably larger than some, for example semipalmated sandpipers.
NB They are not always found on the shore or in water
Watch white-rumped sandpipers foraging
Credits: Woody Bracey, Tony Hepburn, Rick Elis Simpson, Tim Bowman, Crossley Guides, Xeno Canto