Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
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General Comments The Curlew Sandpiper is one of just several species of Eurasian nesting shorebirds on the North Carolina state list. Until about 2000, it was seen practically annually along the coast; however, reports in recent years have dwindled, for uncertain reasons. Looking very similar to a Dunlin in basic plumage, in alternate (breeding) plumage it is a beautiful bird with rusty-colored underparts, somewhat like a Red Knot. This species was traditionally found most readily on the extensive sand/mud flats at Portsmouth Island, and might still be regular there in migration, but few people make the boat trip there anymore. Other favored habitats in North Carolina are fresh to slightly brackish impoundments and pools, where at times it feeds in water that is belly-deep.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5?
Coastal Plain Transient along the coast, declining. Formerly rare in spring, and again from mid-summer into fall. For unknown reasons, there are few recent reports, and now very rare in migration from Bodie/Pea islands south to Portsmouth Island. One photographed at Pea Island NWR from 22-26 Jul 2018 and again at neighboring Bodie Island on 27-28 Jul 2018 [Chat 82:109 link] was the first state record since around 2008. Casual to very rare at these seasons elsewhere along the coast (mostly at Eagle Island near Wilmington). Mainly from early May to early Jun, and early Jul to late Oct, with a "peak" from late Jul to late Aug. A few records between early Jun and early Jul, and two in winter: 1 at Pea Island on 5 Dec 2001 [Chat 66:99 link] and 1 that lingered at Portsmouth Island from July into 22 Jan 1993 [Chat 58:26 link], the latter providing for an exceptional midwinter record for the United States. Peak counts: 5, Portsmouth Island, 28 Jul 1992; 4, Pea Island, 16-22 Jul 1989. The only record away from the coast is 1 at the Cedar Island ferry terminal, 12-15 Aug 2007.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips The species seems to prefer the impoundments at Pea Island NWR, at least formerly the large tidal pond at Cape Hatteras point, and the flats at Portsmouth Island, possibly the single best place on the Atlantic coast for them. However, Portsmouth requires a boat, and considerable time expenditure, to reach. Birds in early fall (Jul and Aug) may still be in alternate plumage, but late fall birds are mostly juveniles. Interestingly, most Curlew Sandpipers are present when the similar-looking Dunlins are absent.
Attribution LeGrand[2018-11-06], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2017-08-24]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The maps for birds represent the breeding status by state and province. In some jurisdictions, the subnational statuses for common species have not been assessed and the status is shown as not-assessed (SNR). In some jurisdictions, the subnational status refers to the status as a non-breeder; these errors will be corrected in future versions of these maps. A species is not shown in a jurisdiction if it is not known to breed in the jurisdiction or if it occurs only accidentally or casually in the jurisdiction. Thus, the species may occur in a jurisdiction as a seasonal non-breeding resident or as a migratory transient but this will not be indicated on these maps. See other maps on this web site that depict the Western Hemisphere ranges of these species at all seasons of the year.
Endemism: occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AK, CT, DE, MA, ME, NC, NJ, NY

Range Map
Note: Range depicted for New World only. The scale of the maps may cause narrow coastal ranges or ranges on small islands not to appear. Not all vagrant or small disjunct occurrences are depicted. For migratory birds, some individuals occur outside of the passage migrant range depicted. For information on how to obtain shapefiles of species ranges see our Species Mapping pages at

Range Map Compilers: NatureServe, 2002