Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Least Sandpiper - Calidris minutilla
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General Comments The Least Sandpiper is the most widespread of the three small North American "peep" shorebirds in the state, being routinely found across the state in migration, though in small numbers inland. It inhabits smaller wet areas than do the Semipalamted and Western sandpipers, such as pools in wet pastures and margins of farm ponds. It favors freshwater and brackish areas even near and along the coast, such as muddy margins of impoundments and pools, and openings in marshes; it also tends to forage closer to grassy places and other cover than most shorebirds. It does forage on saltwater mudflats, again keeping closer to edges than other species. Surprisingly, Leasts also feed on jetties and other rocky spots along the coast.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient, and winter resident along and near the coast and very locally farther inland. Generally common to at times very common migrant along the coast, but seldom abundant; in winter, mostly uncommon to locally fairly common along the southern coast, uncommon along the central coast, and rare to locally uncommon north of Cape Hatteras. In the Tidewater zone, it is an uncommon to locally fairly common migrant and rare to uncommon in winter. Farther inland, uncommon to locally fairly common in migration, and very rare to locally uncommon in winter, with a few overwintering at favored sites, such as at the Goldsboro waste treatment plant. A few birds may linger along the coast in summer. Mainly mid-Jul to late May; farther inland, mostly from early Apr to late May, and mid-Jul into Nov, and sparingly later. Peak counts: 2,000, Oregon Inlet, 18 May 1976; 338, Mattamuskeet NWR area, 29 Dec 2001.
Piedmont Transient, and sparingly into mid-winter. Generally uncommon in spring and fairly common, at least locally, in fall migration. Small numbers linger locally into Dec, and there are many records for Jan and Feb, though there are no regular wintering locales. In general, late fall and winter birds are found along the eastern and southern portions of the province, such as at Falls and Jordan lakes, and Lake Norman. Normal flight periods are from early Apr to late May, and mid-Jul to early Nov, but there are numerous CBC records. Peak counts: 281, Tar River Reservoir (Nash), 10 May 2001; 227, Falls Lake, 8 Sep 2002. Peak winter count: a remarkable 238 at Jordan Lake, 21 Dec 2007; 58, Charlotte CBC, 28 Dec 2019; 50, Charlotte CBC, 26 Dec 2022; 37, Chapel Hill CBC, 27 Dec 1998.
Mountains Transient. Rare to locally uncommon spring and fall migrant, with few published data. Mostly mid-Apr to late May, and mid-Jul into Sep. One winter record: 1 in Henderson, 12 Feb 2005. Peak counts: 40, Price Lake (Watauga), 9 May 1978; 35, Hooper Lane (Henderson), 18 Aug 2021; 33, Price Lake, 31 Aug 2021.
Finding Tips Leasts are easily found along the coast in migration.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-05-17], LeGrand[2023-03-10], LeGrand[2022-02-08]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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