WatchList Species Account for Sanderling (Calidris alba)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: © Jeff Nadler, NatureServe
Photo: © Jeff Nadler, NatureServe

The Sanderling is probably the most widespread coastal shorebird in winter in North America; it also winters on most temperate and tropical beaches in the Western Hemisphere and likewise on temperate and tropical marine beaches in much of the rest of the world. Its breeding range is circumpolar, where it utilizes high artic tundra, particularly in northern Canada, Greenland, and Siberia.


In North America, the Sanderling is common locally in winter and migration on all three coasts and in the Great Plains, with peak numbers on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, Delaware Bay, and New England. Though its high arctic breeding habitat is remote and unoccupied by humans, higher temperatures associated with global warming might eliminate most nesting habitat and also adversely affect the insect populations on which it depends.


Loss of coastal wetlands and wetlands along its interior migration routes may be to the detriment of Sanderling populations. Studies show that time spent foraging along Atlantic beaches decreases in response to increasing and chronic disturbance from human activity, a possible reason for population declines there. Overharvesting of horseshoe crabs, particularly at Delaware Bay, can affect the important seasonal resource of horseshoe crab eggs on which the migrating birds depend. Ongoing degradation of coastal wetlands and possible pesticide poisoning in South America may also have led to declines. The bird would be particularly vulnerable to local oil spills in key areas, such as Delaware Bay.