Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Western Sandpiper - Calidris mauri
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General Comments The third of three common "peeps" in the state, the Western Sandpiper is easily confused with the Semipalmated Sandpiper, as both have blackish legs. Like that species, the Western is common to abundant along the coast in fall; on the other hand, it also winters regularly along the coast, but there is little true northbound migration through North Carolina. This species is named for its breeding in Arctic tundra essentially in Alaska, avoiding the Canadian tundra in that season. Fall migrants head east-southeast and southeast, and thus hit the North Carolina coast, often by Jul; however, wintering birds head directly to the northwest toward Alaska in the spring. It typically mixes in with flocks of Semipalmated, Least, Pectoral, and other species of sandpipers, in shallow coastal pools, impoundments, tidal mudflats, and at inlets. It occurs both on salt and fresh waters.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S4N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient, and winter resident along the coast. Common to abundant on the coast in fall; in winter, fairly common to common in the southern counties, fairly common on the central coast, but uncommon from Cape Hatteras northward. Little additional influx of migrants in spring, so remaining mostly uncommon to fairly common, and scarce in early summer. In the Tidewater zone, mostly uncommon in fall, rare in winter and spring. Farther inland, casual in spring, with about 5 published records, all in May; rare to uncommon in fall. Normal dates along the coast are mid-Jul to late May, but a few present in early summer. Peak counts: 8,000, Fort Fisher (New Hanover), 8 Aug 2014.
Piedmont Transient. Very rare to rare in spring, and uncommon in fall, at least locally (such as at Falls and Jordan lakes); occasionally more numerous if extensive mudflats are present at reservoirs. Normal dates are mid-Apr to late May, and mid-Jul to the end of Sep, with a scattering of records in Oct and Nov. Three reports in early winter: a remarkable (if correct) 55 in Durham on 19 Dec 1993 [Chat 59:33 link], and 2 in that county on 21 Dec 1997 -- both on CBC's; and 1 at Jordan Lake on 22 Dec 2007. Peak counts: 75, Falls Lake, 8 Sep 2002; 75, Jordan Lake, 1 Sep 1987.
Mountains Transient. Very rare in both spring and fall, nearly all records in valleys in the Henderson, Transylvania, and Buncombe region. Notable were two at Price Lake (Watauga) on 1 Sep 2021, with one lingering to 7 Sep -- a first record for the northern mountains. Dates range from 19 Apr to 26 May, and 19 Jul to 8 Sep, with a remarkable report of one at Lake Julian (Buncombe) on 19 Nov 1989, and another on 26 Mar 2023 at Hooper Lane (Henderson). Peak counts: 8, Hooper Lane (Henderson), following Hurricane Irma, on 12 Sep 2017; 6, Fairview (Buncombe), 24 Jul 1985; 5 on two dates along Hooper Lane (Henderson).
Finding Tips The species is easily found along the coast from Jul to late fall.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-08-09], LeGrand[2023-03-10], LeGrand[2022-02-08]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.