Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla)

A few weeks ago I saw a number of small shorebirds that looked like Least Sandpipers but acted like Black Turnstones, pecking energetically at rocks. (“Stones and Pipers,” Dec. 18 2021) I wondered whether these might not be a different species, because Least Sandpipers, as their name implies, forage on sand and mud, and don’t go pecking on rocks. More recently I saw the same birds doing it again: foraging on the stones at the water line along the Virginia Street Extension. I’ve consulted the authoritative sources, and they’re unanimous in holding that sandpipers forage on mud and sand. No mention of rocks. Again doubt crept into my mind whether this was a different species. Then, a bit farther away, on the mudflats just north of the Schoolhouse Creek outfall, I saw a larger flock of what were undoubtedly the same Least Sandpipers, doing the sandpiper thing of pecking in the sand and mud. But then a little wave came in and drove them back along a buried rock, and suddenly some of those same sand-pecking birds started pecking at the rock and on the rock. It turns out that these little shorebirds are more versatile than expected. They peck on sand and mud and they peck on rocks as well. You can see all that in the video above.

If in some future year you read on a bird website that Least Sandpipers forage on sand, mud, and rocks, not only on sand and mud, you’ll be able to say, “Yawn. I knew that already. We saw that here in Chavez Park!”

Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla) foraging on rocks

More about the Least: Wikipedia Audubon Cornell In Chavez Park

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