Western Sandpiper

Calidris mauri
Range Map

The Western Sandpiper breeds on Alaska’s west coast, from the Alaskan Peninsula to the Beauford Sea. They fly south in winter to southern USA, the east and west coasts of Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. Most of these birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway, especially during their spring journey north. But their fall migration south finds a portion of their population travelling through the continental interior.

These birds have one of the biggest populations of all shorebirds. When they gather, especially at staging stops during migration, the specticle of their flocks numbering in the hundreds, or thousands, the resulting murmurating flights can be overwhelming.

Western Sandpipers nest in the tundra, often under cover of some vegetation. After the female lays her clutch of eggs, both parents incubate. After hatching, the female usually leaves the breeding grounds, leaving the male to care for the young.

Peeps are busy little foragers that specialise in shallow shorelines and boggy mudflats. They can be very entertaining to watch. I’ve found they will scurry away when approached, but by sitting quietly, they often will return to feed, and provide an opportunity to capture images.

Science regards Western Sandpipers as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

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