LEAST, BUT NOT LAST: THE SMALLEST SANDPIPER


Least Sandpiper Abaco 5

LEAST, BUT NOT LAST: THE SMALLEST SANDPIPER

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The LEAST SANDPIPER (Calidris minutilla) is the smallest shorebird, the definitive “peep”. An adult is only about 6″ long. They are to be found in pairs or groups, busily foraging in the sand and seaweed. Often they will mix in with other shorebirds. These birds nest in scrapes close to the water, with both parents involved in incubating the eggs. The female will usually leave the nest before the young birds fledge – perhaps (bizarrely?) sometimes even before the eggs hatch. Deal with it, male Least Sandpipers. Fortunately the hatchlings can feed themselves very soon, and are able to fly within two weeks of birth.

Least Sandpiper Abaco 10 Least Sandpiper Abaco 9 Least Sandpiper Abaco 8 Least Sandpiper Abaco 7The “peep” call will no doubt be instantly familiar, although how to differentiate between the various types of sandpiper may be more of a problem… Here’s a short recording via Xeno-Canto (credit: Mike Nelson) 

[audio http://www.xeno-canto.org/sounds/uploaded/PWDLINYMKL/LeastSandpiper7.mp3]

 

Least Sandpiper Abaco 6 Least Sandpiper Abaco 4

Least Sandpiper Abaco 3

They may burrow deep into the seaweed near the shoreline to reach an especially good feeding patchLeast Sandpiper Abaco 1Least Sandpiper Abaco 2

Photos: Keith Salvesen, Delphi Beach, Abaco

7 thoughts on “LEAST, BUT NOT LAST: THE SMALLEST SANDPIPER

    • Hi Scott, they are such endearing little birds – and they let you shuffle pretty close to them. Do you get these where you are? I do remember lots of common sandpipers on the lochs – and black-throated divers on Lochindorb. All the best.

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    • Thanks Lucy. They are very sweet – and very small (compare with the size of the small ‘pop-wrack’ bubbles). Fairly tame – one can very slowly shuffle towards them on a beach. But one step too far and they fly off… about 50 yards, and you have to start again!

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