Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Upland Sandpiper - Bartramia longicauda
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General Comments The Upland Sandpiper is one of the more unusual shorebirds in North America. It is monotypic, with no obvious close relatives, it nests essentially in grasslands (prairies and fields), and it has a long, thin neck and small head that imparts a "skinny" look that is different from all other shorebirds. Unlike nearly all other shorebirds, it neither lingers into late fall/winter, nor over-summers, in our state, and thus is a strict spring and fall migrant. The spring flight is more inland across the state, and it is thus seldom seen near the coast, whereas in late summer and fall it is seen mainly in the eastern portion of the state. Interestingly, it nested sparingly as far south as Virginia, but as yet there is not a single record in North Carolina that suggests nesting. In North Carolina, "Uppies" have a narrow habitat preference -- almost exclusively in short to medium grass, in uplands; favored sites are pastures, grasslands at airports, extensive lawns, and extensive turf farms. Sadly, in the past few decades, global numbers of the species have noticeably declined, and it is now harder to find Uplands in the state than 20 or more years ago, especially in spring migration. Nowadays, annually there are barely 1-2 records in spring, and maybe 4-5 in late summer and fall.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient; declining. In spring, rare in inland portions, and very rare farther eastward (Tidewater and coastal areas); in fall, very rare to locally rare inland, and rare to locally uncommon in Tidewater and coastal areas. Most numerous at airports in late summer and early fall, such as at Wilmington, Beaufort, and Manteo; also, in the past few years, numbers have been found at several turf farms (a "new" habitat, as turf farms have only appeared as a business in the past one or two decades). Primarily early Apr to early May, and mid-Jul to mid-Sep; a few records in Jun presumably refer to early fall migrants; departs very early, with only two records after Sep, those being of one at the Wright Brothers National Memorial (Dare), 9 Oct 2022, and one at Cape Hatteras, 26 Oct 2003. Peak counts: 46, Wilmington airport, 20 Aug 1981; 31, same location, 14 Aug 1980; 27 at a turf farm near Creswell (Washington), 28 Aug 2014; 22 at the last site, 18 Aug 2006.
Piedmont Transient; declining. Formerly rare in spring, but now very rare to rare (few recent spring records); also very rare to rare in fall. Widely scattered across the region, and not clustered near large reservoirs in the eastern portion (like so many other shorebird species). Mainly very late Mar to early May, and mid-Jul to early Sep; by far the latest record is one at Lattimore (Cleveland), 29 Oct 1998. Peak counts: 33, North Wilkesboro, 8 Apr 1962; 5, Greensboro airport, 17 Apr 1993.
Mountains Transient; probably declining. Rare and local in spring, very rare in fall; essentially all records below 2,500 feet elevation. Most records from Henderson and Transylvania, especially at Hooper Lane (where uncommon but annually seen in spring). Mainly early Apr to early May, and late Jul to mid-Sep. Remarkable was one collected in Buncombe on the exceptionally late date of 10 Nov 1894. Peak counts: 8, Hooper Lane, 22 Apr 2000; 7 at that site, 9 Apr 2006; 6 at this site on several dates, including 11 Sep 1998.
Finding Tips Uplands are best located in the fall from late Jul to early Sep, along the coast. The grasslands around the runways at the Manteo, Beaufort, and Wilmington airports are good places to check, as are the turf farm fields just west of Creswell (visible from US 64); another consistent spot is the Wright Brothers National Memorial grounds. Farther inland, the extensive turf fields at the Vandemark Sod Farm along the north side of NC 33, just east of I-95 (Nash) has been reliable in late summer. The Cherry Hospital grounds near Goldsboro, in spring and fall, has been good in the past.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-18], LeGrand[2023-03-10], LeGrand[2020-08-03]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.