Pectoral Sandpiper

Calidris melanotos
Range Map

Pectoral Sandpipers breed in the high Arctic tundra in northern Canada, Alaska, or Siberia, and usually migrate east of the Rocky Mountains. The bird I met in San Diego must have made a wrong turn somewhere when it left its birth home. Most Pectoral Sandpipers winter in South America, but some migrate to south Australia or New Zealand.

Like many shorebirds, Pectoral Sandpiper populations are in decline. Studies show their numbers have dropped by 50% since 1974.

Field marks that help identify this species are the heavily striped breast, and the contrasting white belly. During courting displays, male birds inflate a fat sac in their breasts, giving the appearance of enlarged “pecs”, and hence we gave them the common name Pectoral Sandpiper.

Science considers these birds as monotypic, meaning there are no recognised subspecies.

My first meeting with this species was a chance encounter with a juvenile bird in July 2010 in the Sorrento Valley (San Diego County, California). This late July sighting would have been a recently hatched bird on its way from the high Arctic to southern South America. I didn’t meet the adults until the spring of 2021 on South Padre Island in Texas. These April birds would have been headed north to spawn a new generation.

11 Photos

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