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Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

With warmer weather, I am spending time by the river where I always see a solitary bird bobbing along the rocky shoreline. The Spotted Sandpiper is named after its spotted chest, but is best recognized by its stiffwinged, quivering flight low over the water and the funny bobbing and teetering way it walks.

This eight-inch shorebird is found throughout northern California and is a yearround resident on large streams. It picks and gleans bugs from rocks and sometimes snatches them out of the air.

In breeding plumage, the legs and beak are a yellow-orange and the beak has a black tip. It shows a white eyebrow and has a spotted chest during breeding season. Non-breeding birds and juveniles have a pure white chest.

The Spotted Sandpiper flies close to the surface of the water, displaying a white stripe on the upper wing. You often hear the bird before you see it.

In 1972 it was discovered that it is the female who defends the territory and the male who rears the young. The nest, among logs or under a bush, is a shallow depression lined with grass. The female lays four brown-green spotted eggs. For about three weeks the male incubates, tends and feeds the young, which are precocial that is, able to run around when hatched. The female might mate with four or five other males. This polyandry behavior is only found in about one percent of the bird world.

First published MCAS The Whistling Swan July 2012
Spotted Sandpiper courtesy of Wikimedia Commons