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Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Above: Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Christian Artuso

How do I recognize it?
Buff-breasted Sandpipers are uniquely-coloured shorebirds, with warm buffy underparts and face and dark-centred feathers on the upperparts and crown. They are quite slender, with thin necks, dainty heads and thin black beaks. They are a bit smaller than meadowlarks, with which they are sometimes confused, when they are feeding far off on a sod field.

Does it migrate?
This shorebird breeds in Canada’s High Arctic, migrates through central North America, and winters primarily on the pampas of Argentina.

Above: Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Christian Artuso

Where does it live?
In the Canadian Arctic Archipelago the Buff-breasted Sandpiper seeks out open tundra, often pebble-strewn, to feed and to nest. In typical shorebird fashion, the nest is not more than a scrape in the soil.

Where can I see it?
Although this species can show up anywhere during migration. It prefers short-grass fields, such as sod farms, and during spring migration also mudflats. In the southwest most reports come from Whitewater Lake. Formerly it was a regular spring migrant at Oak Hammock Marsh, but spring sightings are rather rare nowadays. Your best chances are in late summer and early fall, when they often frequent sod fields  just northwest of Oak Hammock Marsh.

Above: Buff-breasted Sandpiper camouflage by Christian Artuso

Conservation status:

Listed by COSEWIC and SARA as a species of Special Concern, numbers of Buff-breasted Sandpipers have dropped significantly during the past century. Market hunting was responsible for huge losses up to the early 20th century, but currently the primary threat seems to be habitat loss, especially on the wintering grounds. In addition, agro-chemicals and pesticides pose threats, as do disturbances from exploration and mining on the breeding grounds.

Did you know?
The courtship display of this sandpiper is unique. It struts about with wings raised, showing the silvery-white undersides to rivals and females alike. If you are very lucky, you may see this in southern Manitoba during spring migration.

Above: Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Christian Artuso