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Species Guide
A photo of a Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos)
Pectoral Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper

Calidris melanotos

The Pectoral Sandpiper, Calidris melanotos, is a small, migratory wader with a distinctive appearance. In its breeding plumage, the adult boasts a grey-brown back, with the summer male showing the brownest hues and the winter plumage tending towards grey. A sharp demarcation line on its grey breast gives this bird its common name, and is particularly striking when the bird faces an observer. The species measures approximately 21 cm in length, with a wingspan of 46 cm. Juveniles display a more vivid pattern with rufous tones and white mantle stripes.

Identification Tips

This bird can be identified by its yellowish legs and olive bill with a darker tip. During breeding season, the male's breast puffs up, supported by a fat sac, to enhance its courtship display.


The Pectoral Sandpiper is found in freshwater habitats, particularly favoring grasslands and mudflats during migration and winter.


A true globe-trotter, the Pectoral Sandpiper breeds across North America and northeast Asia, with half of the population nesting in the boggy tundra of Asia. Come winter, the American and most Asian birds head to South America, while some Asian breeders spend the colder months in southern Australia and New Zealand. Regular migrants are also seen in western Europe, particularly Ireland and Great Britain.


These birds are long-distance migrants, with their migration patterns potentially being influenced by global warming. They forage by sight on grasslands and mudflats, sometimes probing for food. The male's courtship involves an impressive display of puffing up the breast.


The species constructs a steep-sided scrape nest lined with a substantial amount of material, deep enough to protect the eggs from the cool breezes of its breeding grounds. The female typically lays a clutch of four eggs.

Similar Species

The Pectoral Sandpiper is similar to the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, but can be differentiated by its distinct breast pattern and weaker supercilium.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists mainly of arthropods, including flies, their larvae, spiders, crustaceans, and other invertebrates, as well as seeds.

Conservation status

Despite being listed as Least Concern by the IUCN, the Pectoral Sandpiper has experienced a significant decline in numbers, with a 50% decrease since 1974.

Pectoral Sandpiper Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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Pectoral Sandpiper Fun Facts

Did you know?
Some Pectoral Sandpipers make a 19,000 mile round trip every year.

Pectoral Sandpipers on Birda


More Sandpipers, Snipes

A photo of a Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos
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