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Solitary Sandpiper
Tringa solitaria
– Family
Authors: Moskoff, William

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Juvenile Solitary Sandpiper, Ohio, 1 October.
Figure 1. Distribution of the Solitary Sandpiper in North and Middle America.

The Solitary Sandpiper, the nearctic counterpart of the palearctic Green Sandpiper (Tringa ocrophus), breeds in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska and winters in the tropics, from northern Mexico south through much of South America. Although this species was first described by ornithologist Alexander Wilson in 1813, its nest was not discovered until 1903. This is one of the few tree-nesting species in the Scolopacidae; in boreal forest muskeg bogs, pairs lay their eggs in the abandoned nests of jays and other passerines.

The Solitary Sandpiper’s generic name, Tringa, comes from the Greek tryngas, meaning a waterbird with a white rump, whereas the specific name, solitaria, refers to the species’ solitary habits in migration, which contrast markedly with the flocking behavior of most other migrant sandpipers. This is a gracefully shaped bird which, when alighting after flight, holds its wings straight up and then slowly closes them. It nests, laying its eggs in the tree nests of several different song birds.

The Solitary Sandpiper remains poorly known compared to most other North American shorebirds, especially on its nesting grounds. Remote breeding habitat and inaccessible nest sites appear to have discouraged study of its breeding biology. Behavioral studies by Oring (1968, 1973) provide some of the few documented glimpses of breeders. In addition, the tendency of this species to remain alone or in small flocks during migration has limited the data available on its movements and wintering ecology, at least compared to other North American shorebirds.