Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Solitary Sandpiper - Tringa solitaria
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General Comments Solitary Sandpipers often forage with Spotted Sandpipers across the breadth of North Carolina during migration, and most ponds and lakes at some time or another receive visits by these species. Whereas the Spotted may linger into summer and into winter, the Solitary is a strict migrant, nesting in trees in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska and wintering almost solely south of the United States. The Solitary, as its name implies, feeds as singles or at most a handful of birds, around the shorelines of freshwater pools, ponds, swamps, and lakes, as well as along rivers and wide creeks. However, it can occur in sizable numbers on extensive mudflats of lakes in the fall season, though it technically does not form flocks, as do most other species. It shuns most brackish and salt waters, but it does not shun forested areas, as it is one of the few shorebirds that forage along shaded or semi-shaded creeks and pools, as well as in swamps.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient. Uncommon near and along the northern and central coast, such as the Outer Banks, though fairly common near the southern half of the coast; uncommon to fairly common in the Tidewater zone; fairly common farther inland. Abundances in spring season and fall season are roughly similar, though the spring flight is much narrower in time (about 5-6 weeks). Typical occurrence is early Apr to late May, and mid-Jul to mid-Oct. There is a winter report from Pea Island on 20 Dec (year not given in Pearson et al., 1959); however, no details were provided, and thus this report is open to question, as there still has been no subsequent winter report for the state. Peak counts:
Piedmont Transient. Fairly common essentially across the province. Primarily from early Apr to late May, and mid-Jul to mid-Oct; rare in late Mar; latest date is apparently 29 Oct 1966, at Raleigh. No winter records, including Nov. Peak counts: 57, Winston-Salem, 4 May 2008; 52, Winston-Salem, 7 May 2016; 50, Jordan Lake, 7 Aug 1986; 43, Tar River Reservoir (Nash), 16 May 2001.
Mountains Transient. Fairly common at lower elevations (below 3,500 feet), and much reduced in numbers at higher elevations; mainly early Apr to late May, and mid-Jul into Oct. Peak counts: 35, Henderson, 27 Apr 2010; 10, Price Lake (Watauga), 7 May 1978.
Finding Tips This species is reasonably widespread as a migrant. Ponds or lakes with a little bit of muddy shoreline exposed will often host one to several Solitaries. Large mudflats on reservoirs in summer and fall often are also good spots to look for them, though lakes in a given week or month might be at full pool level and thus have no exposed shorelines.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-11], LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2016-12-12]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.