Least Sandpiper

Hey guys welcome back. Shorebirds. Like flycatchers, they are often seen as confusing, hard to identify birds by many. And buckle up, because we have a lot of them coming this month. As you may know, I pull the order of my life list entries for this blog right from my eBird life list. And we’re at the section of the list where I made numerous trips to shorebird spots. Today’s bird is the least sandpiper. Only slightly larger than a sparrow, the least sandpiper is the smallest of the shorebird groups known as the peeps. The peeps are a group of small, similar looking sandpipers.

Least sandpiper. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Jamaica, NY

Many sandpipers are confusing and look nearly identical if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Of course, even then it can be a challenge. One of the biggest reasons shorebirds are so difficult is because many times, you can’t get all that close to them. It’s hard to sneak up on a bird that’s out in the middle of an open area like a mudflat. But there are some tips regarding how to tell a least sandpiper from semipalmated and western sandpipers. First off, the bill of the least sandpiper is ever so slightly downturned. The other clue is their green legs. Now depending on how close you are, and the lighting, this can be quite difficult. You can see the green legs well in the pic at the top of this post (I was behind a blind, which is how I got such a close shot!)

Least sandpipers. Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, Jamaica, NY

Least sandpipers breed in the tundra of extreme northern Canada, so for most fo us in the US, they’re only really visible during migration, although there are winter populations near the Gulf of Mexico and along the Pacific coast. Speaking of, from what I hear shorebirds are easier to ID out west due to the fact that they appear for longer periods in their breeding plumage. Here in the east, they are most prevalent during fall migration when they are at their drabbest. Like other sandpipers, the least probes the mud near waterbodies for invertebrates. They are usually in the mud adjacent to the water, rather than in the shallow water itself. Next up a very cool bird that I’ve yet to see with my own eyes. See you then!

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