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Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) | by Brian Carruthers-Dublin-Eire
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Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)

Calidris melanotos


Gobadán uchtach


[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Calidris melanotos | [UK] Pectoral Sandpiper | [FR] Bécasseau tacheté | [DE] Graubrust-Strandläufer | [ES] Correlimos Pectoral | [IT] Piro-piro pettorale | [NL] Gestreepte Strandloper


spanwidth min.: 38 cm

spanwidth max.: 45 cm

size min.: 19 cm

size max.: 23 cm


incubation min.: 21 days

incubation max.: 23 days

fledging min.: 18 days

fledging max.: 23 days

broods 1

eggs min.: 3

eggs max.: 4


Conservation concern: Green-listed in Ireland.


Status: Scarce passage migrant on western and southern coasts from July to November.


Identification: Very similar to Dunlin and care is needed when identifying this species. In all plumages appears very similar to juvenile Dunlin, though Pectoral Sandpiper slightly larger than that species. Best identified by the abruptly ending breast band, which runs into a point. Juvenile Pectoral Sandpipers are almost indistinguishable from adults.


Similar Species: Dunlin


Call: A dry “kreet” is given in flight.


Diet: Like the commoner Dunlin, Pectoral Sandpipers probe the mud for the various invertebrates found in wetlands and estuaries.


Breeding: Does not breed in Ireland. Pectoral Sandpiper breeds in eastern Siberia and Arctic North America.


Wintering: Pectoral Sandpipers winter in South America. Birds seen in Ireland in late-summer and early autumn are migrants


Where to see: Tacumshin in south County Wexford is one of the more reliable sites for this species, with up to 5 reported annually. Has been recorded in suitable habitat throughout Ireland.



Physical characteristics


Described as a larger version of a Least Sandpiper, the Pectoral Sandpiper is a medium-sized shorebird with a heavily streaked breast, sharply contrasting clear, white belly, and yellowish legs. The bill droops and is black at the tip, and lighter brown at the base. In flight, the tail shows a dark stripe down the middle, with white on either side. The upper wing has a very narrow stripe. Males are larger than females, and males have inflatable sacs in their breasts, used in courtship. Pectoral Sandpipers move along steadily with their heads down, picking up prey on the surface and probing lightly into the sand or mud. They usually forage in vegetation, and when they are disturbed, they stand upright with their necks extended, peering over the grass.




Pectoral Sandpipers breed all across the North American Arctic and across northern Siberia at the dry edges of well-vegetated wetlands. During migration, they can be found in fresh- and saltwater marshes, on mudflats, or drying lakes and wet meadows. They winter in South American grasslands.


Other details


The Canadian Wildlife Service estimates the population of Pectoral Sandpipers at 400,000 birds, with about half that number breeding in North America. Historical reports of enormous numbers along migratory corridors indicate that the population is not what it once was. While hunting may have had an impact in the late 1800s and early 1900s, habitat destruction is currently the most significant threat. There is not a lot of reliable information on population trends of this species, and more data would be helpful. However at this point, the Pectoral Sandpiper is not classified as a species in need of high-priority conservation. Annual vagrant to the British Islands and very rare continental Western Europe.




During the breeding season, Pectoral Sandpipers eat flies and fly larvae, spiders, and seeds. During migration, they eat small crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates, although insects may still be the major food.




This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 25,000-100,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]




Pectoral Sandpipers are promiscuous: males mate with multiple females, and females mate with multiple males. Males arrive on the breeding grounds before females and establish territories. When females arrive, the males attract them with a flight display, rhythmically expanding and contracting the air sacs in their breasts. The female builds a nest in a grassy spot on the ground, often on a slightly elevated spot. The nest is usually a well-hidden scrape lined with grass and leaves, sometimes under low shrubs. She provides all the parental care. Incubation lasts for 21 to 23 days, and the four chicks leave the nest and feed themselves soon after hatching. The female stays with the young for about 10 to 20 days. The young start to fly at around 21 days, and are capable flyers by 30 days.




Migratory. Occasional in winter in southern USA, but otherwise a transequatorial migrant, wintering mainly in southern South America. Much the commonest Nearctic vagrant to Europe, and annual in autumn (late August to mid-October) in Britain and Ireland. Relatively high frequency of occurrence believed linked to strong south-east movement across Canada in autumn, leading to overshooting of Canadian coast. Though some vagrants may reach Europe westwards from Siberia, British and Irish autumn arrivals normally associated with Atlantic depressions. The few European spring records probably also transatlantic vagrants from previous autumns, as perhaps are some early autumn records from North Sea fringes.


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Taken on October 2, 2015