Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Baird's Sandpiper - Calidris bairdii
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General Comments The Baird's Sandpiper is the rarest of the five non-accidental "peep" species in North Carolina, and its rarity is due to the fact that it typically migrates northward and southward through the western Great Plains. Though it nests in the Arctic tundra and winters over much of South America, it almost completely shuns eastern North America in spring, and North Carolina had no records at all at that season until 1982. Even in fall, only very small numbers "stray" eastward to the Eastern states. In North Carolina, Baird's have fairly narrow habitat requirements, favoring the upper (drier) margins of fresh or brackish pools, or slightly damp short grass or lawns. They are less likely to feed in shallow water than most other shorebirds, instead tending to pick at food objects on mud or drier ground.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient. Casual in spring, and rare to locally uncommon in fall, mainly along the coast. Three spring reports, all from Pea Island: 1 on 31 May 1982 [Chat 46:119 link]; 1 on 26 May 2006; and 1 on 22 May 2007. Rare to uncommon (but almost always of just 1-2 birds) in fall in the Bodie/Pea Island area, rare at Cape Hatteras and a few other places along the central coast, and very rare along the southern half of the coast. Very rare, at best, in Tidewater and farther inland in fall (16-17 reports). Mainly late Jul to late Oct, with a few Nov records, including 1 at Lake Mattamuskeet, 24 Nov 2001 and at Wilmington on 25 Nov (no year given). Peak counts: a shocking 18 (if correct), Pea Island, 1 Aug 1972; 3, Lake Mattamuskeet, 30 Aug 1997.
Piedmont Transient. Rare in fall, mainly at the larger reservoirs (when mudflats are present). Flights are early Aug to mid-Oct, with no later reports. Just one spring record -- one photographed in a flooded agricultural area in western Stanly on 8 May 2023 [Chat 87:53 link]; this report has not yet been reviewed by the NC BRC. Peak counts: 4, Winston-Salem, 8 Sep 1975; 4, Greenview Farm near Raleigh, 13 Oct 1976; 4, Lake Crabtree (Wake), 31 Oct 2022.
Mountains Transient, though essentially only in low elevation valleys in Henderson, and single records from Buncombe and Transylvania; one record from a high elevation. Four spring records, all in Henderson: 1 seen on 26 May 2006, 1 photographed from 15-17 Apr 2004, 1 seen by five experienced birders on 4 May 1997, and 1 seen at Mills River on 16 May 2019. Very rare in fall, with dates from 31 Jul to 10 Nov; most notable was 1 photographed at Big Yellow Mountain (grassy bald) in Avery on 13 Aug 2010. Peak counts: 9, Hooper Lane (Henderson), 2 Sep 2017; 4, Hooper Lane, 9 Sep 2004; 3, Hooper Lane, 1 Sep 2009; 3, Hooper Lane, 27-31 Aug 2023.
Finding Tips In mid-autumn, the impoundments at Pea and Bodie islands, and the tidal pool at Cape Hatteras point, are good places to search for them, but only where and when grassy shorelines are present. Inland, Falls Lake and Jordan Lake flats can often have one to several in a fall season, though on a given day none will be seen.
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Attribution LeGrand[2024-02-10], LeGrand[2023-08-09], LeGrand[2023-03-18]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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