Spotted Sandpiper

The female Spotted Sandpiper has it made!  She is more aggressive than the male and practices polyandry, which means she mates with more than one male. She may lay up to 5 clutches with various males. Each male incubates the eggs for her while the she seeks yet another mate. Spotted Sandpiper|Kenai River|Sodotna, Alaska The males take care of all the parental tasks and the female defends the territories of all of her males. (That sounds good to me!) The Spotted Sandpiper should be easy for you to recognize with the constant swinging and bobbing of its tail.


The Spotted Sandpiper is around 6-7″ long. During breeding it has dark bars on brown above and heavy round, black spots below; the bill is pink at the base and its legs are pinkish-orange.  It turns pale gray-brown with white under parts in the fall and winter.  It has brownish patches on the sides of the breast and a white eyebrow.  The bill turns dark; the legs turn a dull greenish-yellow or flesh color.  The juveniles look like the adults but have dark edges to the feathers on the back and wings.

Range and Habitat

The Spotted Sandpiper has a wide range of habitats; it is common in fresh water habitats and can be found at lakes, rivers, and ponds in suburban areas as well as the Alaskan tundra. It can be found singly or in pairs walking near fresh water throughout North and South America.  It forms small flocks during migration and winters in Central and South America.


The Spotted Sandpiper is usually found alone.  It bobs its tail constantly and even when standing teeters obsessively. The teetering will stop when the bird is alarmed, courting or aggressive.  When the bird is nervous, the teetering is faster.  Only its wing tips flutter when it flies and it will usually go only a few yards and then stop. The head is bowed below the body when it flies.  Its call is a shrill “Peet-weet”.  Spotted Sandpipers forage along the ground or water eating insects, invertebrates, and crustaceans.  They will also pick flying insects out of the air.

Breeding & Nesting

The female Spotted Sandpiper will choose a temperate region for breeding; the longer season this allows her to raise more than one brood.  She stakes out a territory and then displays to attract a male.  The nest is built among grasses along creek bottoms.  Most females only lay 2 clutches because of a lack of males; however it is not unheard of for a female to lay up to 5 clutches.  She leaves it up to the male to incubate and raise the chicks while she goes out to find another mate. The male incubates the eggs for 3 weeks. When the chicks hatch, they have feathers and are ready to find their own food, but the father usually stays with them for the first few weeks and teaches them where to find food. The chicks will teeter soon after they hatch.  They are able to fly within 15-20 days.

Photo Gallery Spotted Sandpiper