Known prey organisms
Based on studies in:
USA: Alaska (Tundra)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
- J. Brown, Ecological investigations of the Tundra biome in the Prudhoe Bay Region, Alaska, Special Report, no. 2, Biol. Pap. Univ. Alaska (1975), from p. xiv.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage
|Specimen Records:||1,204||Public Records:||917|
|Specimens with Sequences:||1,065||Public Species:||72|
|Specimens with Barcodes:||1,064||Public BINs:||74|
|Species With Barcodes:||78|
Sandpipers are a large family, Scolopacidae, of waders or shorebirds. They include many species called sandpipers, as well as those called by names such as curlew and snipe. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Different lengths of bills enable different species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food.
Sandpipers have long bodies and legs, and narrow wings. Most species have a narrow bill, but otherwise the form and length are quite variable. They are small to medium sized birds, measuring 12–66 cm (4.7–26.0 in) cm in length. The bills are sensitive, allowing the birds to feel the mud and sand as they probe for food. They generally have dull plumage, with cryptic brown, grey, or streaked patterns, although some display brighter colours during the breeding season.
Most species nest in open areas, and defend their territories with aerial displays. The nest itself is a simple scrape in the ground, in which the bird typically lays three or four eggs. The young of most species are precocial.
This large family is often further subdivided into groups of similar birds. These groups do not necessarily consist of a single genus, but as presented here they do form distinct monophyletic evolutionary lineages. The groups, with species numbers in parentheses, are:
- Genus Numenius (8 species, of which 1–2 recently extinct)
- Genus Bartramia (monotypic)
- Genus Limosa (4 species)
- Genus Limnodromus (3 species)
- Genera Coenocorypha, Lymnocryptes, Gallinago and Scolopax (nearly 30 species, plus some 6 extinct)
- Genus Phalaropus (3 species)
- Genera Xenus, Actitis, and Tringa which now includes Catoptrophorus and Heteroscelus (16 species)
- Genus Prosobonia (1 extant species, 3–5 extinct)
- Roughly 25 species, mostly in Calidris which might be split up into several genera. Other genera currently accepted are Aphriza, Eurynorhynchus, Limicola, Tryngites, and Philomachus, in addition to the 2 Arenaria turnstones.
The early fossil record is very bad for a group that was probably present at the non-avian dinosaur's extinction. "Totanus" teruelensis (Late Miocene of Los Mansuetos (Spain) is sometimes considered a scolopacid – maybe a shank – but may well be a larid; little is known of it.
Paractitis has been named from the Early Oligocene of Saskatchewan (Canada), while Mirolia is known from the Middle Miocene at Deiningen in the Nördlinger Ries (Germany). Most living genera would seem to have evolved throughout the Oligocene to Miocene with the waders perhaps a bit later; see the genus accounts for the fossil record.
In addition there are some indeterminable remains that might belong to extant genera or their extinct relatives:
- Scolopacidae gen. et sp. indet. (Middle Miocene of Františkovy Lázně, Czech Republic – Late Miocene of Kohfidisch, Austria)
- Scolopacidae gen. et sp. indet. (Edson Early Pliocene of Sherman County, USA)[note 1]
The sandpipers exhibit considerable range in size and appearance, the wide range of body forms reflecting a wide range of ecological niches. Sandpipers range in size from the least sandpiper, at as little 11 cm (4.3 in) and 18 grams (0.6 oz) in length, to the Far Eastern curlew, at up to 66 cm (26 in) in length, and the Eurasian curlew, at up to 1.3 kg (3 lbs). Within species there is considerable variation in patterns of sexual dimorphism. Males are larger than females in ruffs and several sandpipers, but are smaller than females in the knots, curlews, phalaropes and godwits. The sexes are similarly sized in the snipes, woodcock and tringine sandpipers. Compared to the other large family of wading birds, the plovers (Charadriidae) they tend to have smaller eye, more slender heads, and longer thinner bills. Some are quite long-legged, and most species have three forward pointing toes with a smaller hind toe (the exception is the sanderling, which lacks a hind toe).
Sandpipers are more geared towards tactile foraging methods than the plovers, which favour more visual foraging methods, and this is reflected in the high density of tactile receptors in the tips of their bills. These receptors are housed in a slight horny swelling at the tip of the bill (except for the surfbird and the two turnstones). Bill shape is highly variable within the family, reflecting differences in feeding ecology. Bill length relative to head length varies from three times the length of the head in the long-billed curlew to just under half the head length in the Tuamotu sandpiper. Bills may be straight, slightly upcurled or strongly downcurved. Like all birds, the bills of sandpipers are capable of cranial kinesis, literally being able to move the bones of the skull (other than the obvious movement of the lower jaw) and specifically bending the upper jaw without opening the entire jaw, an act known as rhynchokinesis. It has been hypothesized this helps when probing by allowing the bill to be partly opened with less force and improving manipulation of prey items in the substrate. Rhynchokinesis is also used by sandpipers feeding on prey in water to catch and manipulate prey.
Distribution, habitat, and movements
The sandpipers have a cosmopolitan distribution, occurring across most of the world's land surfaces except for Antarctica and the driest deserts. A majority of the family breed at moderate to high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, in fact accounting for the most northerly breeding birds in the world. Only a few species breed in tropical regions, ten of which are snipes and woodcocks and the remaining species being the unusual Tuamotu sandpiper, which breeds in French Polynesia (although prior to the arrival of humans in the Pacific there were several other closely related species of Polynesian sandpiper).
Diet and feeding
There are broadly four feeding styles employed by the sandpipers, although many species are flexible and may use more than one style. The first is pecking with occasional probing, usually done by species in drier habitats that do not have soft soils or mud. The second, and most frequent, method employed is probing soft soils, muds and sands for prey. The third, used by Tringa shanks, involves running in shallow water with the bill under the water chasing fish, a method that uses sight as well as tactile senses. The final method, employed by the phalaropes and some Calidris sandpipers, involves pecking at the water for small prey.
- Harrison, Colin J.O. (1991). Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopaedia of Animals: Birds. London: Merehurst Press. pp. 103–105. ISBN 1-85391-186-0.
- Thomas, Gavin H.; Wills, Matthew A.; Székely, Tamás (2004). "A supertree approach to shorebird phylogeny". BMC Evol. Biol. 4: 28. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-4-28. PMC 515296. PMID 15329156.
- Wetmore, Alexander (1937). "The Eared Grebe and other Birds from the Pliocene of Kansas" (PDF). Condor 39 (1): 40.
- Piersma, Theunis (1996). "Family Scolopacidae (Snipes, Sandpipers and Phalaropes)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jordi. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. pp. 444–487. ISBN 84-87334-20-2.
- Estrella, Sora; Masero, José A. (2007). "The use of distal rhynchokinesis by birds feeding in water". Journal of Experimental Biology 210 (21): 3757–3762. doi:10.1242/jeb.007690.
A snipe is any of about 25 wading bird species in three genera in the family Scolopacidae. They are characterized by a very long, slender bill and crypsis plumage. The Gallinago snipes have a nearly worldwide distribution, the Lymnocryptes jack snipe is restricted to Asia and Europe and the Coenocorypha snipes are found only in the Outlying Islands of New Zealand. The three species of painted snipe are not closely related to the typical snipes, and are placed in their own family, the Rostratulidae.
Snipes search for invertebrates in the mud with a "sewing-machine" action of their long bills. The sensitivity of the bill, though to some extent noticeable in many sandpipers, is in snipes carried to an extreme by a number of filaments, belonging to the fifth pair of nerves, which run almost to the tip and open immediately under the soft cuticle in a series of cells. They give this portion of the surface of the premaxillaries, when exposed, a honeycomb-like appearance. Thus the bill becomes a most delicate organ of sensation, and by its means the bird, while probing for food, is at once able to distinguish the nature of the objects it encounters, though these are wholly out of sight.
Camouflage may enable snipe to remain undetected by hunters in marshland. If the snipe flies, hunters have difficulty estimating a correct aiming lead for the bird's erratic flight pattern. The difficulties involved in hunting snipe gave rise to the term “sniper”, referring to a skilled anti-personnel military sharpshooter.
"Going on a snipe hunt" is a phrase suggesting a fool's errand, or an impossible task. It is often used as a practical joke upon campers, and those unfamiliar with hunting, by those more experienced.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Newton, Alfred (1911). "Snipe". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- "snipe publisher=Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2010-02-19.
The calidrids or typical waders are a group of Arctic-breeding, strongly migratory wading birds. These birds form huge mixed flocks on coasts and estuaries in winter. They are the typical "sandpipers", small to medium-sized, long-winged and relatively short-billed.
Systematics and taxonomy
The calidrids' closest relatives are the two species of turnstone, and if the calidrids were to be considered one or two tribes Calidriini and/or Arenariini, and/or subfamily Eroliinae, the turnstones would be included in it. There exists a fossil bone, a distal piece of tarsometatarsus found in the Edson Beds of Sherman County, Kansas. Dating from the mid-Blancan some 4-3 million years ago, it appears to be from a calidriid somewhat similar to a pectoral sandpiper, but has some traits reminiscent of turnstones. Depending on which traits are apomorphic and plesiomorphic, it may be an ancestral representative of either lineage. It might also belong to some distinct prehistoric genus, as true calidriid sandpipers seem to have been present earlier (see below).
The interrelationships of the calidrid group are not altogether well resolved. Several former genera have been included in Calidris, such as the stilt sandpiper (previously Micropalama himantopus), but the new placement was also not entirely satisfactory. It was suggested, for example, that the sanderling should be placed into a monotypic genus Crocethia, and the other small Calidris species separated as Erolia. Alternatively, it was suggested that the monotypic Aphriza, Limicola and Eurynorhynchus be also merged into Calidris.
A comprehensive analysis in 2004 –, based on newly available DNA sequence data – indicated that the extended Calidris is indeed paraphyletic (or polyphyletic if all calidrids are combined in it), but found the present DNA sequence data insufficient to resolve the relationships of some more unusual taxa such as the curlew sandpiper. In addition, it is known that the calidriid lineages are able to hybridize to a considerable extent and in the past, this was probably even more frequent and more hybrids would have been viable; therefore studies based on mtDNA data alone can be unreliable.
Still, three groups of close relatives emerge:
- The largest contains the smaller species, including the Sanderling, and probably also the buff-breasted sandpiper. If this group is considered a distinct genus, the name Ereunetes would apply, first published in 1811. The curlew sandpiper might also belong here; it is the type species of Erolia, first published in 1816.
- The genus Calidris sensu stricto contains the knots and the surfbird.
- Another small group contains somewhat aberrant species, namely the ruff, the broad-billed sandpiper, and the sharp-tailed sandpiper, which would use the name Philomachus.
Genera and species
The species, according to updated / traditional taxonomy, are as follows:
- Genus Calidris sensu stricto – knots
Other calidrids (all at some time placed in Calidris too)
- Genus N.N. (Ereunetes?) – stints
- Semipalmated sandpiper, "Calidris" pusilla or Ereunetes pusillus
- Little stint, "Calidris" minuta
- Least sandpiper, "Calidris" minutilla
- White-rumped sandpiper, "Calidris" fuscicollis
- Baird's sandpiper, "Calidris" bairdii
- Dunlin, "Calidris" alpina
- Red-necked stint, "Calidris" ruficollis
- Long-toed stint, "Calidris" subminuta
- Pectoral sandpiper, "Calidris" melanotos
- Sanderling, "Calidris" alba or Crocethia alba
- Western sandpiper, "Calidris" mauri or Ereunetes mauri
- Purple sandpiper, "Calidris" maritima
- Rock sandpiper, "Calidris" ptilocnemis
- Temminck's stint, "Calidris" temminckii
- Buff-breasted sandpiper, "Tryngites" subruficollis
- Genus Philomachus
- Genus Micropalama (doubtfully valid; Erolius s.str.?)
- Genus Eurynorhynchus (doubtfully valid)
- incertae sedis (Erolia s.str.?)
As mentioned above, there exists some material of birds essentially identical to calidrid sandpipers from before the Pleistocene. An undescribed species is known from the Early Miocene of Dolnice (Czech Republic). Tringa gracilis (Early Miocene of WC Europe) and Tringa minor (= Totanus minor, Erolia ennouchii) from the Middle Miocene of Grive-Saint-Alban (France) are scolopacids of rather uncertain affiliations; they might be charadriids.
- Nebel, S.; Jackson, D.L. & Elner, R.W. (2005). "Functional association of bill morphology and foraging behaviour in calidrid sandpipers". Animal Biology 55 (3): 235. doi:10.1163/1570756054472818.
- Thomas, Gavin H.; Wills, Matthew A. & Székely, Tamás (2004). "A supertree approach to shorebird phylogeny". BMC Evolutionary Biology 4: 28. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-4-28. PMC 515296. PMID 15329156. Supplementary Material
- Wetmore, Alexander (1937). "The Eared Grebe and other Birds from the Pliocene of Kansas". Condor 39 (1): 40.
- Macwhirter, Bruce, Peter Austin-Smith, Jr. and Donald Kroodsma. "Sanderling (Calidris alba)". The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). 2002. Retrieved 2011-04-16.
- Mlíkovský, Jirí (2002): Cenozoic Birds of the World, Part 1: Europe. Ninox Press, Prague.
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