Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Pectoral Sandpiper - Calidris melanotos
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General Comments Though in the same genus as the Least, Semipalmated, and several other smaller sandpipers known as "peeps", the Pectoral Sandpiper -- called a "peep" by some birders and not a "peep" by others -- is a much larger bird, basically like a giant Least Sandpiper in plumage and habitat in the state. Unlike that smaller species, however, the Pectoral is a strict migrant, passing through all parts of the state in spring and fall, but distinctly absent in winter and in early summer. Pectorals feed mostly in damp freshwater areas, such as at mudflats, wet pastures, turf farms, and lawns. Along the coast, it favors the drier edges of impoundments and pools, often in very short grass, preferring not to feed in standing water.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Transient; generally widespread across the province, not much more frequent along the coast than inland. Uncommon in spring, and uncommon to fairly common in fall; fairly common along the coast in fall, at least locally; can be common at Lake Mattamuskeet in fall. Normal dates are mid-Mar to mid-May, and mid-Jul to early Nov. Casual in winter -- there are two records for 1-2 Dec, one for 9 Dec, one for 28 Dec, plus one for 29 Feb, which basically relate to very late fall birds and a very early spring bird. However, a group of 3 seen at Shackleford Banks, 22 Dec 1979 [Chat 44:86 link], assuming a correct identification, is a remarkable record. Peak counts: 750, Lake Mattamuskeet, 7 Sep 2008; 500, flying past Oregon Inlet, 17 Sep 2005; 300, near Creswell (Washington), 18 Aug 2006.
Piedmont Transient; widespread across the province. Uncommon in spring, and uncommon to locally fairly common (at least sporadically and where there are extensive mudflats), in fall. Mostly late Mar to early May, and mid-Jul to late Oct; casually into mid-Dec, and also in very late Feb. Latest in fall is 1 at Raleigh on 15 Dec 1979. Peak counts: 278, Falls Lake, 16 Aug 2002; 228, Falls Lake, 4 Sep 2005; 179, Jordan Lake, 7 Sep 1998.
Mountains Transient. Very uncommon to uncommon in spring, and rare to locally uncommon in fall, generally at lower elevations. Mostly mid-Mar to mid-May, and late Jul or early Aug through Sep. Peak counts: 225, Hooper Lane (Henderson), 1 Aug 2013; 200, Hooper Lane, 3 Aug 2018; 100, Hooper Lane, 22 Mar 2003; 50, Hooper Lane, 28 Aug 2008; 45, Hendersonville, 11 Apr 1987.
Finding Tips Where there are suitable mudflats around inland lakes, especially in fall, the species can usually be found. Also look for them around the margins of the Pea Island impoundments, again best in early fall. In spring, it can be trickier to target, because of suitable wet grassy areas at that time of year -- most lakes are full in spring.
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Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-10], LeGrand[2019-04-19], LeGrand[2018-02-01]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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