Calidris alba

Image of sanderlings, Calidris alba, gathered on the beach
Image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region on Flickr, public domain

Physical: Sanderlings exhibit a delightful charm with their small, agile frames. In their summer breeding plumage, they possess a rusty-red cap and neck, contrasting with their white underside. In winter, they transition to a more muted palette of pale grays and whites. Measuring about 7 to 8 inches long, these birds have a distinctive appearance with their short black legs and straight black bill.

Habitat: Often seen dashing along sandy shores, Sanderlings have a penchant for coastal beaches. They breed in the high Arctic tundra and migrate to virtually all coastlines during non-breeding seasons.

Feeding: Watch a Sanderling on a beach, and you’ll witness its characteristic feeding dance: racing towards the retreating waves to pick up tiny prey and then scurrying back before the next wave hits. Their diet consists primarily of small invertebrates, like crustaceans and mollusks, plucked from the wet sand or shallow surf.

Breeding: Their breeding grounds are in the high Arctic. Here, they lay their eggs in simple ground nests, often just a scraped-out depression in the ground lined with bits of vegetation. Usually, a clutch contains 3-4 eggs. Both parents share the duties of incubation, and once the young hatch, they’re quick to start foraging under the watchful eyes of their parents.

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