WatchList Species Account for Western Sandpiper
(Calidris mauri)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: USFWS
Photo: Stuart MacKay

The Western Sandpiper is one of the commonest shorebirds in North America, wintering along both coasts. Its breeding range is primarily in western Alaska. One particular vulnerability of the bird is that it stops over at certain sites in such great numbers and concentrations that a disaster such as an oil spill at any one of them while the birds are present could have a devastating effect on its population. Among these sites are Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas; San Francisco Bay, California; Grays Harbor, Washington; and the Copper River Delta of Alaska. One estimate is that as many as 6.5 million pass through the latter site in just a few weeks each spring.


There is a concern over the lack of protection for this bird and other migratory shorebirds at the critical stopover and wintering sites. A spill such as the Exxon Valdez, should it impact the Copper River Delta, could wipe out a significant proportion of this species. Wintering site fidelity has been little studied and needs further investigation. One primary wintering site, however, are the mudflats in the bay at Panama City, Panama, where pollution is a problem.