Sanderlings on the Mud


The Sanderling seems poorly equipped for mudpecking compared to the Marbled Godwit, the Whimbrel, the Willet — just about every other shorebird that frequents the North Basin mudflats at low tide.  With a beak barely as long as its head, a real shorty compared to other species, how can it hope to find enough edibles to survive?  The answer, as this brief video suggests, may lie in PPM — Pecks Per Minute.  Other mudpeckers like the Marbled Godwits invite comparison with a sewing machine.  Pretty fast! But the Sanderlings are in a whole other bracket:  a sewing machine on steroids.  They peck so fast that their heads go blurry.  At the same time their legs are always in motion.  Result, the Sanderlings cover more mud than the competition, and they manage to be “one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds,” according to the Cornell bird lab website.   They’re extreme long-distance migrants that breed only in the High Arctic tundra, and in winter visit pretty much everywhere else, including this little stretch of tidal mudflats in the North Basin.  


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