Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Purple Sandpiper - Calidris maritima
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General Comments Hardly any bird has as restrictive a habitat in North Carolina than does the Purple Sandpiper, and no other shorebird winters farther northward in eastern North America than does this species. It is practically only found on wave-washed rocks and bridge pilings along the coast, where the state is near the southern end of the winter range. Thus, the few jetties and groins along the coast are essentially its sole habitat, and thus it is restricted to a handful of sites along several hundred miles of coast. Perhaps no more than 25-50 birds overwinter in the state. A few can at rare times be seen on a beach near rocks, but it has yet to be found inland. The only record that might be considered "Tidewater" is from the Cedar Island ferry terminal. Though of regular occurrence in the state in recent decades, the first state record wasn't made until 1948.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S1N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter resident along the coast. Numerically very rare to rare, but in reality, uncommon at a handful of suitable groins and jetties. Most are found at the jetties at the south end of Wrightsville Beach (Masonboro Inlet), but a few occur at Fort Macon SP and at Oregon Inlet. Mostly early Nov to mid-Apr. Late date -- Fort Macon, 31 May 2002; early date - Wilmington [Wrightsville Beach?], 12 Sep 1952. Peak counts: 60, Wilmington CBC, 1 Jan 2014; 56, Masonboro Inlet (New Hanover), 24 Dec 2015; 51, Wrightsville Beach, 3 Jan 2010. No inland records, except for one at Cedar Island ferry terminal area, 9 Nov 2001.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips The best location in NC is the jetty at the south end of Wrightsville Beach, where up to 30 birds are present each winter, but you likely will need a scope to see the birds well. A few are present each winter on the groin at the north end of Pea Island and on the bridge piling bases at the south end of the Bonner Bridge at Oregon Inlet. The jetties at Fort Macon often have one to three birds. Birds have been seen a few times on the rocks at the Fort Fisher basin and on the groins at the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.
Attribution LeGrand[2016-09-28], LeGrand[2014-08-12], LeGrand[2013-12-10]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.