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Baird’s Sandpiper

What is Baird’s Sandpiper?

Baird’s Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii, is an attractive medium-sized shorebird of the wader family Scolopacidae. This secretive species is a fairly common migrant throughout most of North America. It is also an uncommon breeder in the northern tundra. Although Baird’s Sandpiper tends to stay at a distance from humans, it can still be observed in its summer breeding grounds, where the male birds are at their most active.


Baird’s Sandpiper is a smallish wader that grows to a length of about 20 centimeters. It has gray legs and a thin, thin black and white coloration, which helps camouflage it in its natural grass and wetland habitats. The head is generally a warm, reddish-brown, speckled with white feathers. The wings are typically long and slender, and the flight is quick, with sharp turns. On the breast are dark-brown flecks, while the belly and vent are more lightly colored. The tail of this species is short and squared off.


Unlike many waders, Baird’s Sandpiper is fairly active on the ground and likes to walk, often in a restless and erratic manner. Generally, they are skittish and secretive around humans, and they tend to run away rather than fly away when approached. During the breeding season, however, males will display in front of potential mates by doing a series of short, explosive jumps and dives, accompanied by rapid wing-flicking.

In their winter habitats, Baird’s Sandpipers can be found foraging both on land and in shallow estuaries and wetlands. During the breeding season, however, they become much more accustomed to harsh conditions, and migrate to the tundra regions of Northern Canada and Alaska. Here they feed mainly on insect larvae and small crustaceans, and live in an open habitat such as grassland or shrubland.

Baird’s Sandpiper two

Breeding Habits

During the breeding season, Baird’s Sandpipers will often display in packed groups, with females trying to lure males with their calls. The birds will court by ‘piping’ in the air, their mating song consisting of a series of soft ‘quirp’ sounds. Once the pair has mated, they will construct a shallow bowl-shaped nest in the soft soil of tundra regions. The female will lay a single clutch, and then both parents take turns incubating the eggs. The young hatch after a couple of weeks, and they can fly after only a few days.

Conservation Status

Baird’s Sandpipers are currently listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which states that their population is healthy and growing. Even so, their population numbers can fluctuate from year to year depending on local weather conditions and habitat destruction. They are also at risk from predators, as well as from human activities such as hunting and agricultural activities that may disturb their nesting grounds.


Baird’s Sandpipers are an interesting species of shorebird that, although secretive and hard to spot, will still reward patient and observant birdwatchers with a spectacular display when they mate and breed in their tundra habitat. With the right conditions and a bit of luck, the Baird’s Sandpiper can be a very enjoyable sighting indeed.

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