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Discover the Fascinating Habits of the Broad-billed Sandpiper: Adaptations Migration and Behaviors

The Broad-billed Sandpiper, Calidris falcinellus, is a small bird species that mainly resides in freshwater habitats. It is a migratory bird that breeds in the Arctic tundra region, and during the non-breeding season, it can be found in the coastal regions of Africa, South Asia, and Australia.

In this article, we will delve into the identification, plumages, and molts of the Broad-billed Sandpiper.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper is a small bird species, measuring between 16-18 cm in length, with a wingspan of between 35-39 cm. Its wings are sharp and pointed, and in flight, it appears as if it has a short tail.

The bird’s head, neck, and breast are brown, and its belly is white. Its bill is short and straight, and it has a dark tip.

The Broad-billed Sandpiper has short yellowish or greenish legs.



The Broad-billed Sandpiper can be identified in the field by its small size, straight bill, short wings, and tail.

The hind toe is small, and it has a distinctive, broad-based bill compared to other similar species. When in flight, this bird has a distinctive flap-flap-glide pattern and displays a white wedge on the back.

The bird also has a habit of bobbing its head while feeding.

Similar Species

The Broad-billed Sandpiper can easily be confused with the Pectoral Sandpiper, which is larger and has a streaked breast. Another similar-looking species is the Curlew Sandpiper, which has a longer and downward-curved bill.

The Red-necked Stint is also similar in appearance but is smaller in size and has a longer and thin beak.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper has two plumages: breeding and non-breeding. In breeding plumage, the bird has a rusty-brown head and breast, with black and white streaks.

The belly and flanks are streaked in black. In non-breeding plumage, the bird’s face, breast, and flanks are pale, with faint streaks.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper gathers in both sexes after breeding to undergo partial moult before migrating southwards to their non-breeding grounds. The juvenile and adult birds molt into non-breeding plumages in freshwater habitats before migrating.

Upon arrival at the non-breeding grounds, they undergo another complete moult into breeding plumage. In conclusion, the Broad-billed Sandpiper is an interesting bird species that can be found in freshwater habitats during the non-breeding season.

It can easily be identified in the field by its distinct characteristics, such as its broad-based bill. Understanding the different plumages and molts of this bird is critical to birdwatching enthusiasts.

In this article, we will explore the systematics history, geographic variation, subspecies, related species, and historical changes to distribution of the Broad-billed Sandpiper (Calidris falcinellus).

Systematics History

The Broad-billed Sandpiper belongs to the sandpiper family, Scolopacidae, which comprises more than 90 species of wading birds. The species was first described by Johan Reinhold Forster in the 18th century.

The bird’s binomial name, Calidris falcinellus, was coined by Carl Linnaeus. Over the years, the classification of the Broad-billed Sandpiper has undergone several revisions.

Geographic Variation

The Broad-billed Sandpiper exhibits geographic variation across its range. Birds found in the Arctic breeding grounds of Europe, Asia, and Alaska have darker and more boldly patterned plumages than those found in the non-breeding areas of Africa, Australia, and South Asia.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper has three recognized subspecies, which are morphologically and geographically distinct. The C.

f. falcinellus subspecies breeds in the tundra region of northwestern Russia and winters in the Mediterranean region.

The C. f.

sibirica subspecies breeds in eastern Siberia and winters in South Asia. The C.

f. centralis subspecies breeds in the Canadian Arctic and winters in South America.

Related Species

The Broad-billed Sandpiper has two closely related species within the sandpiper family: the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata) and the Stilt Sandpiper (Calidris himantopus). The Sharp-tailed Sandpiper breeds in the Arctic tundra of Siberia and North America and winters in Australia and Southeast Asia.

The Stilt Sandpiper breeds in the Arctic tundra of North America and winters in South America.

Historical Changes to Distribution

The historical distribution of the Broad-billed Sandpiper has undergone changes over time. The species was once widespread across Eurasia, but its breeding range has contracted due to habitat loss, climate change, and hunting pressure.

For instance, the number of breeding pairs in Europe and the Western Palearctic has declined significantly over the years, with a range reduction of 98%.

In contrast, the non-breeding range of the Broad-billed Sandpiper has expanded due to habitat creation and protection measures.

For example, the species now winters in wetland areas in East Africa, where it was previously absent. However, the expansion of rice cultivation in such areas has resulted in the loss of the bird’s foraging and roosting sites.


In conclusion, the Broad-billed Sandpiper is a species that exhibits geographic variation and has three recognized subspecies. The bird is closely related to the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Stilt Sandpiper in the sandpiper family.

The species’ distribution has undergone changes over time due to habitat loss, climate change, and hunting pressure. While the bird’s breeding range has contracted, its non-breeding range has expanded, albeit with threats to its habitat.

Understanding the systematics, variation, subspecies, and distribution of the Broad-billed Sandpiper is critical to its conservation. The Broad-billed Sandpiper (Calidris falcinellus) is a wading bird that inhabits freshwater areas such as lagoons, marshes, and bogs during its non-breeding season, making it different from other migratory shorebirds which typically live in coastal wetlands.

In this article, we will examine the habitat, movements, and migration behavior of this bird species in detail.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper has unique habitat requirements as it prefers damp tundra and wetlands that are scarce in salt or have moderate brackish water compared to other sandpipers. It breeds in the Arctic tundra, where it occupies small shallow pools, wet meadows, and moist sedge growths in tundra areas.

The species’ breeding habitat requires wet mossy organic material in moist sedge meadow pools that are vulnerable to disturbance and threats from human activities such as oil and gas exploration, mining, and road-building cutting through the tundra region. During the non-breeding season, the Broad-billed Sandpiper can be found in freshwater habitats, including drainage basins, riverbanks, and ponds from the East African coast to southeastern Asia, including the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Java, and the Lesser Sundas.

They are particularly prevalent in rice fields and other temporary, shallowly flooded habitats that provide ideal conditions for feeding and roosting. Although these habitats have undergone continuous degradation over the years due to conversion to agriculture, urbanization, and overgrazing, the numbers of Broad-billed Sandpipers have remained stable over the years.

Movements and Migration

The Broad-billed Sandpiper is a truly migratory bird, nesting in the Arctic tundra in the summer and wintering in the tropical regions of Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia. The bird breeds in the high Arctic, mainly in Russia, eastern Siberia, and Alaska, between late May and July and departs from the breeding grounds in early August.

Juvenile birds generally stay in their wintering grounds, while adults tend to return year-on-year to the same sites. The Broad-billed Sandpiper undertakes one of the longest migratory journeys among shorebirds, with some birds covering over 10,000 km in each direction between the breeding and non-breeding sites.

The migratory route of the bird involves a stopover in the Middle East for refueling before continuing through Pakistan, India, and Southeast Asia, to reach its primary destinations in Africa and Australia. The species’ apparent unlimited ability to cross vast expanses of water in a non-stop flight has generated enthusiasm among birdwatchers worldwide.

Scientists have documented that some individuals differ considerably in their movement patterns. For instance, some individuals follow an east-west migratory route, while others follow a north-south route while others have more tortuous migratory paths.

Genetic data has shown that these differences can be because some individuals belong to different breeding populations and follow distinct migratory routes to reach their wintering grounds. Migratory birds such as the Broad-billed Sandpiper face physical and environmental challenges on their journeys.

They must overcome physical barriers such as harsh weather, thirst, and extreme fatigue while seeking food, making stops, and covering long distances. The need for habitat conservation throughout their migratory path is, therefore, crucial for the species’ survival.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper is a migratory wading bird that inhabits freshwater habitats during its non-breeding season, such as rice fields and temporary wetlands. It undertakes the longest migratory journey among shorebirds and faces various challenges, including harsh weather and habitat loss.

The species faces significant threats from human activities in its breeding and non-breeding habitats and is, therefore, in need of habitat conservation and management policies to ensure its survival. The Broad-billed Sandpiper (Calidris falcinellus) is a migratory bird species that resides in freshwater habitats for its non-breeding season.

As a shorebird, it requires specialized feeding strategies to survive, and this has resulted in unique adaptations in its physiology and behaviors. In this article, we will delve into the diet and foraging strategies, as well as the vocal behavior, of the Broad-billed Sandpiper.

Diet and Foraging


As a wader bird, the Broad-billed Sandpiper feeds by probing the ground with its bill in a constant up-and-down motion or by using the “foot-stirring” technique, where it moves its feet rapidly to disturb the sediments and kick prey to the surface. The species mostly feeds during daylight hours, preferring to rest during the night or in the hottest part of the day.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper’s diet is diverse and consists of insects and their larvae, small crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates. Some of the primary prey species that this bird feeds on include small snails, water fleas, midges, and beetles.

Its wide range of prey items suggests opportunistic foraging behavior, which is advantageous in unpredictable and varying environments.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

In freshwater habitats, the sandpipers need to balance their water gain and loss, which is impacted by high temperatures, high humidity levels, and salt concentrations. The species has evolved physiological and behavioral adaptations to help reduce water loss and regulate its body temperature.

These adaptations include reduced metabolic rates during the day, perching in the shade, and water retention due to specialized kidneys, all of which help the bird survive in freshwater habitats.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Broad-billed Sandpiper vocalizes throughout the year, including during the breeding and non-breeding seasons. The species uses a variety of sounds and vocalizations for communication, alarm calls, courtship, and territorial defense.

The bird’s vocalizations are relatively low in pitch, and it’s a common sound of the bird in all stages of the annual cycle, making it easy to detect with the aid of auditory surveys. Several vocalizations have been documented in this species, ranging from simple whistles to more complex notes with different pitch and duration.

The bird’s most common call is a short, sharp “kit”, “kittup”, or “dit”, which is used for alarm calls when predators are present or when startled in flight. During the breeding season, the males use a more elaborate song, which consists of repeated, low-pitched notes, and is used to attract females or to warn other males from their territory.

The female Broad-billed Sandpiper also vocalizes in response to the male’s song, and the pair will engage in a duet until they bond. During mating and nesting, the birds’ vocalizations change, and both the male and female become more vocal in territorial defense and in upholding their shared parenting responsibilities.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper is a unique migratory bird species that relies on freshwater habitats for its non-breeding season. The bird’s unique feeding strategy involves probing the ground with its beak or using the foot-stirring technique.

The bird’s diet is diverse, consisting of aquatic invertebrates and small crustaceans and insects. The species has evolved unique adaptations to regulate its body temperature and conserve water, especially in the freshwater habitats where it resides.

The Broad-billed Sandpiper is also vocal, with various vocalization patterns that are used for communication, alarm calls, courtship, and territorial defense. Understanding the sound and vocal behavior of this bird is critical to its conservation and management.

Overall, this bird is a unique species that has adapted to a specific niche and habitat, and it’s vital to implement management strategies that safeguard its survival across its migratory path. The Broad-billed Sandpiper (Calidris falcinellus) is a small migratory shorebird that inhabits freshwater habitats during its non-breeding season.

As a migratory bird, this species has unique behaviors and adaptations to cope with its environment’s challenges. This article will discuss the behavior, breeding, and demography of the Broad-billed Sandpiper.



The locomotion of the Broad-billed Sandpiper is characterized by its rapid and agile movements, running and hopping through the shorelines with remarkable speed. The species is highly mobile on jointed legs that move swiftly along the ground and use its wings to help it adjust its balance while attempting to grip slippery rocks and sediments.


Self-maintenance is an essential behavior for wading birds to maintain their plumage and hygiene. The Broad-billed Sandpiper achieves self-maintenance via several behaviors, including preening, bathing, and sunbathing.

Preening is necessary for the bird to keep its feathers in good condition and protect them from water, dirt, and parasites. The bird’s oil glands on the base of its tail secrete oil, which spreads throughout its feathers and makes them waterproof.

Agonistic Behavior

Agonistic behaviors consist of a series of interactions between members of the same species, characterized by competition, confrontations, and posturing displays. The Broad-billed Sandpiper exhibits agonistic behavior during the breeding season, especially when defending its territories from intruders.

These behaviors include high-pitched vocalizations, bill duels, and chasing. The male bird will engage in bill duels with other males to establish dominance, while the females will engage in similar aggressive behaviors to protect their nests.

Sexual Behavior

The Broad-billed Sandpiper’s sexual behavior is closely linked to its breeding season. The bird participates in courtship displays consisting of visual and vocal signals.

Male birds perform a flight display over the breeding areas, followed by a ground display to attract the female’s attention. The males also sing a distinctive song to attract females for mating.

The female birds will typically choose the dominant males for mating, and once pair bonded, both parents will share responsibilities regarding nesting, incubation, and feeding their young.


The Broad-billed Sandpiper breeds in the high Arctic tundra regions from late May to mid-July. The species belongs to the group of shorebirds with monogamous mating systems, where males and females pair up during one breeding season.

The birds nest on the ground, where they build shallow depressions lined with plant material such as moss, grass, or twigs. The bird’s primary nesting area is usually on the open tundra, which exposes them to predation by birds such as the Arctic Fox and Gray Wolf.

Demography and Populations

The Broad-billed Sandpiper’s breeding populations are in the low thousands per year globally, and the estimated population size averages at 35,000210,000 individuals. The bird faces several threats, such as loss and degradation of its breeding and non-breeding habitats, climate change, and hunting pressures, which pose threats to their populations.

It is critical to improve the conservation status of this species by introducing measures such as habitat protection against human activities and creating safe breeding areas. The species faces several challenges in its breeding grounds due to environmental changes, and concerted efforts must be made to monitor population trends and promote population recovery through habitat restoration.

Conservation strategies that involve the international protection of breeding and non-breeding territories across the species’ migratory paths will play an essential role in ensuring its long-term survival.


The behavior, breeding, and demography of the Broad-billed Sandpiper are the product of millions of years of evolution, shaped by its unique environment. This species is adapted to cope with freshwater habitats

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