WatchList Species Account for Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species


Photo: © Robert Hughes

Unlike any other North American shorebird, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper has a lek mating system. The males defend small display territories to which the females are attracted. After mating the females leave to nest and raise the young elsewhere. The bird feeds mostly on invertebrates. This species is among the shorebirds that migrate vast distances between breeding and wintering grounds; the Buff-breasted nests in the high arctic in dry, elevated tundra with sparse vegetation along the coast of the Arctic Ocean in eastern Siberia and Alaska to islands in the Canadian Arctic and winters on the pampas of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.


Once believed to number in the millions, loss of habitat along its migration path and in its wintering grounds severely diminished its numbers, as did commercial hunting, particularly since the bird is extremely tame and tends to return to a wounded flock member. It is now thought to number some 15,000 individuals. During migration it frequents short-grass areas such as pastures, turf farms, golf courses, and airports and recently harvested agricultural fields.


Pesticide use has been implicated in the deaths of individuals feeding on treated rice seed. In winter it prefers wet grassland areas heavily grazed by livestock but away from human activity. Management that would benefit the bird on the wintering grounds includes limiting organochlorine applications in agricultural areas and maintaining pasturelands and grazing to yield suitable grass height. On the breeding grounds there is a threat from the effects of oil development.