A medium-sized (8-9 inches) sandpiper, the Solitary Sandpiper, is most easily identified by its dark gray back and wings, streaked neck, straight bill, and dull greenish legs. In winter, this species becomes slightly duller-plumaged overall. This species may be separated from the related Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) by that species’ yellow legs and paler plumage and from the similarly-sized Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus) by that species’ larger size and curved bill. Male and female Solitary Sandpipers are similar to one another in all seasons. The Solitary Sandpiper primarily breeds in Alaska and central Canada. This species is a long-distance migrant, wintering from Texas and the Bahamas south to southern South America. Solitary Sandpipers migrate through the Caribbean, along both coasts of North America, and in the interior of the continent. Solitary Sandpipers primarily breed in freshwater marshes surrounded by northern evergreen forests. In winter and on migration, this species may be found in a number of wetland habitats, including freshwater or saltwater marshes, flooded grasslands, and estuaries. Solitary Sandpipers mainly eat small invertebrates, including insects, aquatic worms, and mollusks. Due to its remote breeding habitat, most birdwatchers never see Solitary Sandpipers during the summer. On migration or during the winter, this species may be seen probing the mud for food with its bill while wading in shallow water. Solitary Sandpipers are primarily active during the day.
- Moskoff, William. 2011. Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/156
- Peterson, Roger Tory. Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.
- eBird Range Map - Solitary Sandpiper. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012. http://ebird.org/ebird/map/solsan.
- Tringa solitaria. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. http://xeno-canto.org/browse.php?query=Tringa+solitaria.
- Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. http://ibc.lynxeds.com/species/solitary-sandpiper-tringa-solitaria.
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Breeding
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range extends from central and south-coastal Alaska, northern Yukon, Mackenzie, northern Saskatchewan, northern Manitoba, and northern and central Ontario east through central Quebec to central and southern Labrador, and south to northwestern and central British Columbia, central Alberta, central Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, and northern Minnesota; probably west-central Oregon (AOU 1983). During the nonbreeding season, the range extends from Baja California, Gulf Coast, southeastern Georgia, Florida, and Bahamas south through Middle America and South America to Peru, south-central Argentina, and Uruguay (accidental in Hawaii) (AOU 1983, Moskoff 1995).
Length: 22 cm
Weight: 51 grams
Comments: BREEDING: Nests on taiga. Nests in trees in abandoned passerine nests near muskeg and woodland ponds or pools. Also reported as nesting on ground in areas above treeline in Brooks Range, Alaska (see Johnson and Herter 1989).
NON-BREEDING: freshwater ponds, stream edges, temporary pools, flooded ditches and fields, more commonly in wooded regions, less frequently on mudflats and open marshes (AOU 1983); favors areas where vegetation extends to water's edge (Stiles and Skutch 1989).
Habitat and Ecology
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.
Begins migrating northward in March; migrates through U.S. April-May. Southward migration from breeding areas begins in early July. Migrates through Costa Rica mainly August-early October and mid-March to early May (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Arrives in northern South America in July or early August, departs by early April (Hilty and Brown 1986).
Comments: Wades through shallow water catching aquatic insects (dragonfly nymphs, water boatmen, water scavenger beetles, etc.) small crustaceans, small frogs, and worms. Also snatches insects (dragonflies, grasshoppers, etc) in mid-air.
10,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Comments: Population has been estimated at 25,000 individuals, but precision is poor (range 25,000 to 150,000; Morrison et al. 2001, Sinclair et al. 2004). Northwestern race, T. s. cinnamomea, estimated at only 4,000 individuals (Brown et al. 2001); if accurate, T. s. cinnamomea is among the rarest of North American shorebird taxa (McCaffery and Harwood 2004).
Nonbreeding: usually seen singly or in small loose groups (never flocks).
Life History and Behavior
Breeding begins late May to early June (Harrison 1978). Usually 4 eggs. Nestlings precocial.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Tringa solitaria
There are 13 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.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Tringa solitaria
Public Records: 14
Specimens with Barcodes: 14
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5B - Secure
Rounded National Status Rank: N4B,N5N : N4B: Apparently Secure - Breeding, N5N: Secure - Nonbreeding
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Reasons: Large nesting range in North America; population size is imprecisely known but apparently relatively small for a widespread shorebird; some evidence indicates declining abundance, but better information on trend and threats is needed.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Global Short Term Trend: Unknown
Comments: Few robust data on trends are available, but recent analyses suggest downward trends in all data sets with sufficient information to evaluate such trends (e.g., Breeding Bird Survey [BBS] in Alaska and Canada, and migrant monitoring in Ontario and Quebec; Sauer et al. 2005). BBS data from Canada show a non-significant annual rate of decline of -6.0% between 1966 and 2004 (P < 0.14, n = 19 routes; Sauer et al. 2005). However, the BBS is not an ideal survey method for this species. Point estimates of trends for migrant birds in both Ontario and Quebec between the late 1970s and the late 1990s are also negative, but neither approaches significance (Aubry and Cotter 2001, Ross et al. 2001).
Comments: Assessment of threats is speculative because species-specific research has been difficult due to remote breeding grounds, low densities, and the solitary nature of the species (McCaffery and Harwood 2004). Potential threats include logging of boreal forests and tropical woodland habitats, and wetland loss as a result of drying and human development (Moskoff 1995, McCaffery and Harwood 2004).
Biological Research Needs: The degree of dependence on nests constructed by arboreal passerines should be assessed, and the possible indirect impacts of declining Rusty Blackbird populations (and hence, reduction in nest availability) evaluated. Actual and potential threats to the population need to be identified (McCaffery and Harwood 2004).
This species measures 18–23 cm (7.1–9.1 in) long, with a wingspan up to 50 cm (20 in) and a body mass of 31–65 g (1.1–2.3 oz). It is a dumpy wader with a dark green back, greyish head and breast and otherwise white underparts. It is obvious in flight, with wings dark above and below, and a dark rump and tail centre. The latter feature distinguishes it from the slightly larger and broader-winged, but otherwise very similar, green sandpiper of Europe and Asia, to which it is closely related. The latter species has a brilliant white rump. In flight, the solitary sandpiper has a characteristic three-note whistle. They both have brown wings with little light dots, and a delicate but contrasting neck and chest pattern. In addition, both species nest in trees, unlike most other scolopacids.
Distribution and habitat
It breeds in woodlands across Alaska and Canada. It is a migratory bird, wintering in Central and South America, especially in the Amazon River basin, and the Caribbean. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.
The solitary sandpiper is not a gregarious species, usually seen alone during migration, although sometimes small numbers congregate in suitable feeding areas. The solitary sandpiper is very much a bird of fresh water, and is often found in sites, such as ditches, too restricted for other waders, which tend to like a clear all-round view.
Food is small invertebrates, sometimes small frogs, picked off the mud as the bird works steadily around the edges of its chosen pond.
WilsonBull18:47 (migration data - compare to current Ohio checklist http://www.ohiobirds.org/publications/OBRClist.pdf) -->
- BirdLife International (2012). "Tringa solitaria". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
-  (2011).
- CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
- Pereira, Sérgio Luiz; Baker, Allan J. (2005). "Multiple Gene Evidence for Parallel Evolution and Retention of Ancestral Morphological States in the Shanks (Charadriiformes: Scolopacidae)". The Condor 107 (3): 514. doi:10.1650/0010-5422(2005)107[0514:MGEFPE]2.0.CO;2. ISSN 0010-5422.
- Federation of Alberta Naturalists. (1992) Glen P. Semenchuk (ed.). The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Alberta. Edmonton, AB:Federation of Alberta Naturalists.
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: The solitary sandpiper is the nearctic counterpart to the palearctic green sandpiper (Tringa ocrophus). Two subspecies are recognized: Tringa solitaria solitaria (breeds east of eastern British Columbia) and T. s. cinnamomea (breeds in Alaska and western Canada) (Moskoff 1995). The two subspecies have been found together on neotropical wintering grounds (Moskoff 1995).
Recent mtDNA studies by Hebert et al. (2004) identified a deep divergence within the species which could result in splitting the species in two; further taxonomic investigation is required.