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Overview

Distribution

Actitis hypoleucos, often referred to as common sandpipers, can be found throughout the world from western Europe, eastward across Asia to Japan, extending south to Africa and Australia. During the spring and summer when it is breeding season, they are typically found in the northern hemisphere ranging from the Atlantic Ocean to Japan, usually in temperate climates. Common sandpipers are migratory birds that overwinter in warmer climates throughout the Old World, specifically Africa, southern Asia, and Australia.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native ); ethiopian (Native ); australian (Native )

  • Malpas, L., J. Ekstrom, S. Butchart. 2004. Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos). Detailed Species Accounts from Birds in Europe.
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Non-breeding

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Global Range: BREEDS: Eurasia, from the British Isles and Scandinavia to Anadyrland and Kamchatka; eastern Africa. WINTERS: southern Europe, central Asia, and Phillipines south to southern Africa, islands in the Indian Ocean, Australia, and islands of the western Pacific Ocean (Sibley and Monroe 1990). Rare but regular migrant, usually in spring, in the outer Aleutians, Pribilofs, and St. Lawrence Island (NGS 1987).

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Range

Palearctic; winters to s Africa, c Asia, Philippines and Australia.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Physical Description

Morphology

Adult, breeding common sandpipers are brownish-gray on their heads, napes and breast, which are all faintly streaked with dark brown. Their bellies and undertail coverts are unmarked white. Backs, wings and tails are overall darker brown, mottled with shades of tan and very dark brown. In addition, they often have a white ring around the eyes. Like many migrating birds, common sandpipers molt after the breeding season into their winter plumage. Winter plumage is a more drab version of the breeding plumage, and the streaking in particular fades or disappears completely. The young have white speckles also on the upper part. Juveniles look very similar to wintering adults, but have significantly more buff incorporated into their mottled upperparts. This species can be distinguished from the spotted sandpiper due to their longer tail feathers and darker legs. They are approximately 8 grams at hatching and their mass increases to about 40 grams when able to fly. In addition they grow to be about 20 cm long with bills measuring 21 mm in length. Their wingspan adult wingspan reaches 35 cm. This species displays no sexual dimorphism in plumage, but females tend to be a little larger than males.

Average mass: 40 g.

Range length: 18 to 24 cm.

Average length: 20 cm.

Average wingspan: 35 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; female larger

  • Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of North America, Europe, and Asia: a Photographic Guide. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Holland, P., D. Yalden. 1991. Growth of Common Sandpiper Chicks. Wader Study Group, 62: 13-15.
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Size

Length: 20 cm

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Diagnostic Description

Description

Length: 19 cm. Plumage: above and on sides of neck and chest uniform dark brown; below white extending around bend of wing; white superciliary stripe; conspicuous white wingbar in spread wing, breeding bird has noticeable streaking above and on neck and breast. Immature like adult. Bare parts: iris brown; bill variable from grey or olive-grey to dark brown with ochre or pinkish base; feet and legs variable from greenish grey to yellowish olive. Habitat: almost any marine or freshwater shoreline. Palearctic migrant. <389><391><393>
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour This species is a full migrant, migrating at night overland on a broad front across both deserts and mountains (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Small numbers may also remain in the northern maritime climatic zone (e.g. the British Isles, Mediterranean and Japan) throughout the year (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). The European population that overwinters in West Africa migrates south between mid-July and August (juveniles following one month later), and returns to the breeding grounds from late-March to April (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). Immature individuals may also remain in the winter range throughout the summer breeding season (Snow and Perrins 1998). The species breeds from May to June in scattered single pairs 60-70 m apart in optimal breeding habitat (del Hoyo et al. 1996), and migrates singly or in small flocks (del Hoyo et al. 1996), although it usually remains solitary in its winter range (Urban et al. 1986). It forages diurnally (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and may aggregate at night (Johnsgard 1981) into roosts of over 100 individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat Breeding During the breeding season this species shows a preference for pebbly, sandy or rocky margins of fast-flowing rivers (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), as well as small ponds, pools (Snow and Perrins 1998) and dams (Urban et al. 1986), clear freshwater lake shores, sheltered sea coasts with rocky or sandy beaches, tidal creeks and estuaries (Urban et al. 1986), and often forages in patches of dry meadow (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It occurs from sea level up to 4,000 m or more in the mountains, but generally avoid frozen, snow-clad or very hot areas (Snow and Perrins 1998). Non-breeding In its winter range this species inhabits a wide variety of habitats, such as small pools, ditches, riverbanks (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), streams, dam shores (Yalden 1992), marshy areas (Johnsgard 1981), estuaries, freshwater seeps on coastal shores, tidal creeks in mangrove swamps and saltmarshes, harbours, docks (Yalden 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998) and filtration tanks of sewage works (Yalden 1992). It will also forage on grassland along roadsides and occasionally in gardens (Yalden 1992, del Hoyo et al. 1996), but it generally avoids large coastal mudflats (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet The diet of this species consists of adult and larval insects (such as beetles and Diptera), spiders, molluscs, snails, crustaceans, annelids, and occasionally frogs, toads, tadpoles and small fish, as well as plant material (including seeds) (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a shallow depression, sometimes amongst shrubs and trees (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 5 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 4 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 9.605 - 10.196
  Nitrate (umol/L): 2.813 - 4.780
  Salinity (PPS): 33.777 - 35.082
  Oxygen (ml/l): 6.360 - 6.636
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.371 - 0.446
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.816 - 3.454

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 9.605 - 10.196

Nitrate (umol/L): 2.813 - 4.780

Salinity (PPS): 33.777 - 35.082

Oxygen (ml/l): 6.360 - 6.636

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.371 - 0.446

Silicate (umol/l): 1.816 - 3.454
 
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Common sandpipers can live in a variety of habitats depending on season. During the breeding season, they tend to nest along sandy coasts and river banks preferably near fast-moving water. Their habitat can extend up into the mountains as high as the tree-line if the climate and environment is suitable. They are able to withstand heavy rain and a broad range of day-to-night temperatures to be expected in a temperate climate. In the winter when the breeding season has passed, common sandpipers tend to move south to more tropical climates where they prefer to live in wetlands. They generally choose ponds, rivers, canals, estuaries, and mangroves. As evidence by their habitat selection, common sandpipers avoid very hot climates, as well as frozen or snowy regions.

Range elevation: Sea level to 4,000 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; coastal

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp ; bog

Other Habitat Features: riparian ; estuarine

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Comments: Streams, ponds, lakes; in migration, seacoasts and marshes (Sibley and Monroe 1990).

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Depth range based on 5 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 4 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 9.605 - 10.196
  Nitrate (umol/L): 2.813 - 4.780
  Salinity (PPS): 33.777 - 35.082
  Oxygen (ml/l): 6.360 - 6.636
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.371 - 0.446
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.816 - 3.454

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 9.605 - 10.196

Nitrate (umol/L): 2.813 - 4.780

Salinity (PPS): 33.777 - 35.082

Oxygen (ml/l): 6.360 - 6.636

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.371 - 0.446

Silicate (umol/l): 1.816 - 3.454
 
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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Common sandpipers usually eat small invertebrates, crustaceans, aquatic and terrestrial insects, worms, and spiders, as well as scavenge on scraps from boats or from near shore. On occasion, they will eat small amphibians, tadpoles, fish and seeds. They locate live prey by running along the coastline and then run, swim, or dive to capture it. They break their prey into smaller pieces in order to feed. Typically, they feed individually or in pairs and avoid foraging in areas where other flocks feed to avoid competition and predation.

Animal Foods: amphibians; fish; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; other marine invertebrates

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods)

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Associations

Actitis hypoleucos is one of three species within the family Scolopacidae that does not display a resistance to blood parasites. As a consequence, they tend to be carriers of blood parasites such as Haemoproteus contortus. Common sandpipers are also carriers of various other common avian parasites. They also play an important roles as predator and prey within their ecosystem.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • blood parasites (Haemoproteus contortus)

  • Earle, R., L. Underhill. 1992. Absence of Haematozoa in Some Charadriformes Breeding in the Taimyr Peninsula, Russia. Ardea, 81/1: 21-24.
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Young common sandpipers are particularly vulnerable to predation before fledging. Further enhancing their vulnerability, chicks tend to be weak and unable to escape predators. As a defense against predation, parents fly away in order to distract the predators and they gather in flocks to work together to provide defense. When near water, they can also dive for short periods of time when being chased. Like many sandpipers, their brown-mottled coloration serves as camouflage in their coastal habitats. Some known predators of common sandpipers include estuarine crocodiles, foxes, weasels, gulls and skuas.

Known Predators:

  • estuarine crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus)
  • foxes (Vulpes species)
  • weasels (Mustela species)
  • gulls (Laridae family)
  • skuas (Stercorariidae family)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

  • Yalden, D., T. Dougall. 2004. Production, Survival, and Catchability of Chicks of Common Sandpipers Actitis hypoleucos. Wader Study Group, 104: 82-84.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Common sandpipers communicate with each other by vocalizations that resemble "Twee, wee, wee". These vocalizations are most common when they are flying in the air and trying to communicate. Common sandpipers are noisy when breeding or moving, but are very quiet when eating. In addition, they may use their wings and other forms of visual signaling. Like most birds, common sandpipers perceive their environments through visual, tactile, auditory and chemical stimuli.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

Young sandpipers show a survival rate around 57%. With adults, this rate rises up to 85%. The average common sandpiper is able to live approximately 8 years in the wild. However, the oldest recorded individual was slightly over 14 years of age.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
14 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
8 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 14.5 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Common sandpipers are almost exclusively monogamous for each breeding season. The length of this pair bond is currently unknown. The male will defend his territory and his female by making threatening displays. A specific example is a salute where they throw out one or both wings as a warning that they are prepared to chase intruders off to defend the territory. On rare occasions, the female may join in displaying threats, but the female does not engage in fighting.

Mating System: monogamous

Common sandpipers typically breed in the northern hemisphere during May and June. Common sandpipers construct scrape nests, which are essentially shallow indentations on the ground and are typically left unlined. The female excavates a nest within 50 meters of water and then lays an average of 4 eggs per clutch. The incubation period lasts an average of 21 days and the chicks usually hatch within the first 10 days of June. The precocial young fledge after 22 to 28 days. Growth rate of chicks have been shown to correlate with weather, with higher growth rates associated with warmer temperatures. They tend to be fast growing, but as a result use up a lot of energy early on in development. Juvenile common sandpipers often remain on the wintering grounds for their first summer, and thus don't breed until almost 2 years of age.

Breeding interval: Common sandpipers breed once a year.

Breeding season: Breeding typically occurs during May and June.

Range eggs per season: 3 to 4.

Average eggs per season: 4.

Average time to hatching: 21 days.

Range fledging age: 22 to 28 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

The female is responsible for building the nest. Once the eggs have been laid, both parents share incubation duties until the eggs hatch after 3 weeks. The young are fed and protected by both parents for several days after hatching. Young are semi-precocial at birth and are able to leave the nest soon after hatching to hide in nearby vegetation. The female typically departs before the young fledge at 22 to 28 days old.

Parental Investment: precocial ; male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Mee, A., D. Whitfield, D. Thompson, T. Burke. 2004. Extrapair Paternity in the Common Sandpiper, Actitis hypoleucos, Revealed by DNA Fingerprinting. Animal Behaviour, 67/2: 333-342.
  • Tan, R. 2001. "Common Sandpiper Acititis hypoleucos" (On-line). Naturia. Accessed February 11, 2011 at http://www.naturia.per.sg/buloh/birds/Actitis_hypoleaucos.htm.
  • Yalden, D., T. Dougall. 1994. Habitat, Weather, and the Growth Rates of Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos Chicks. Wader Study Group, 73: 33-35.
  • del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, J. Sargatal. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks.. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Actitis hypoleucos

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 17 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

GTGACTTTCATCAACCGATGATTATTTTCAACCAACCACAAAGATATCGGCACTCTGTACCTAATTTTTGGCGCATGAGCTGGCATAGTCGGAACTGCCCTTAGCCTACTCATTCGTGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCAGGGACCTTACTAGGTGACGACCAAATCTACAATGTAATCGTCACTGCCCATGCTTTCGTTATAATCTTTTTCATAGTAATACCAATCATGATTGGCGGCTTCGGAAATTGACTAGTCCCACTCATAATTGGCGCGCCCGATATAGCATTTCCTCGTATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTACTTCCCCCATCATTCCTGTTACTTCTTGCATCATCCACAGTAGAAGCTGGGGCCGGTACAGGATGAACAGTATATCCCCCTCTTGCTGGTAACCTAGCCCATGCTGGGGCATCAGTAGACCTAGCTATCTTTTCCCTTCACCTAGCAGGTGTCTCCTCCATTCTTGGCGCCATCAACTTTATCACAACTGCTATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCTCTCTCCCAATACCAAACCCCCCTATTTGTTTGATCAGTCCTTATTACTGCCGTCCTACTCCTACTTTCCCTCCCAGTCCTCGCTGCTGGCATTACCATACTATTAACAGATCGAAACCTAAATACTACATTCTTTGACCCAGCCGGGGGAGGAGATCCAGTCCTATATCAACACCTCTTCTGATTTTTTGGTCACCCAGAAGTTTACATTTTAATCCTACCAGGCTTCGGAATTATTTCCCATGTCGTAGCCTACTACGCAGGCAAAAAAGAACCATTCGGGTACATAGGAATAGTATGAGCTATACTATCTATCGGATTCCTAGGCTTCATCGTTTGAGCCCATCACATATTCACAGTAGGAATAGACGTA
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Actitis hypoleucos

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 18
Specimens with Barcodes: 22
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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