Already a subscriber? Sign in Don't have a subscription? Subscribe Now
White-rumped Sandpiper
Calidris fuscicollis
– Family
Authors: Parmelee, David F.

Welcome to the Birds of North America Online!

Welcome to BNA Online, the leading source of life history information for North American breeding birds. This free, courtesy preview is just the first of 14 articles that provide detailed life history information including Distribution, Migration, Habitat, Food Habits, Sounds, Behavior and Breeding. Written by acknowledged experts on each species, there is also a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.

A subscription is needed to access the remaining articles for this and any other species. Subscription rates start as low as $5 USD for 30 days of complete access to the resource. To subscribe, please visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.

If you are already a current subscriber, you will need to sign in with your login information to access BNA normally.

Subscriptions are available for as little as $5 for 30 days of full access! If you would like to subscribe to BNA Online, just visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.


Adult White-rumped Sandpiper, breeding plumage; Texas, May
Adult White-rumped Sandpiper, non-breeding plumage; NY State, September
Figure 1. Breeding and wintering (Dec–Apr) ranges of the White-rumped Sandpiper.

This small Nearctic sandpiper migrates from its principal breeding ground in the Canadian Arctic to the southern extremities of South America, one of the longest animal migrations in the Western Hemisphere. Much of its migration is made in a few, long, non-stop flights, each of which can last as long as 60 hours and transport these birds up to 4,000 kilometers, powered by extensive body fat. Such fat reserves are laid down at key migration staging areas—wetlands where food is especially abundant—making this bird particularly vulnerable to loss of strategic habitat. Southbound migrants fly over the Atlantic Ocean from northeastern North America to northern South America, and then gradually move southeast along the coast before turning inland in trans-Amazonian travel of about one month. Northward migration from Patagonia is apparently similar, at least through South America; the birds then move across the Caribbean and through interior North America to arctic breeding grounds.

As a breeder, the White-rumped Sandpiper occupies wet, hummock-tundra near marshy ponds, nesting on the ground and laying four, distinctive, pale to olive green eggs, spotted with reddish-brown. It performs elaborate courtship and territorial displays, and is vocal near its nest. It usually forages in small groups, but individuals also defend feeding territories.

This species associates freely with other sandpipers; its highly visible white patch behind the rump and distinct call are its best field characters.