Named for the dark-spotted breast of breeding individuals, the Spotted Sandpiper in summer is also characterized by its medium-length yellow bill, olive back, and black eye-stripes. In winter, the Spotted Sandpiper loses its spots, leaving behind a plain white breast. This is a medium-sized (7 ½ inches) sandpiper with the plump body and small head characteristic of shorebirds. Males and females are similar to one another in all seasons. One of the most widely-distributed sandpiper species in North America, Spotted Sandpipers breed from northern Canada and Alaska down to northern California, New Mexico, Missouri, and Virginia. In winter, this species migrates south to southern California, the desert southwest, and coastal regions of the southeast. Some populations winter as far south as Central America and the Caribbean. The Spotted Sandpiper’s wide distribution is influenced by its ability to inhabit a variety of shoreline habitats, including streams, ponds, and waterlogged grasslands. By contrast, Spotted Sandpipers prefer freshwater habitats during the summer breeding season. In winter, they may also be found near saltwater, particularly on mudflats and lagoons. Spotted Sandpipers are most easily observed foraging along the water’s edge. There, they may be seen bobbing up and down as they probe the mud for small insect larvae and crustaceans, which make up the majority of their diet. This species is primarily active during the day.
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