Bird of the Week, August 17, 2012
Buff-breasted Sandpiper


Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Phil Jeffrey


The dainty, dove-headed Buff-breasted Sandpiper is an atypical shorebird, most often found in grassy habitats away from the coast. Unique among North American shorebirds, it has evolved to mate on "leks", small areas where males gather to display and compete for females. After mating at the lek site, the females leave to nest and raise the young elsewhere.


Once believed to number in the millions, this species was decimated by commercial hunting by the turn of the 20th Century, and still has not fully recovered. Loss of habitat along its migration path and on its wintering grounds, as well as pesticide use, further diminished its numbers.


Management actions that would benefit the Buff-breasted Sandpiper include limiting pesticide use in agricultural areas and maintaining pasture at a suitable grass height on the birds' wintering grounds; efforts to protect and improve grassland habitat in staging areas throughout the United States also need to be continued. Oil development should also be restricted on the birds’ breeding grounds to preserve existing lek and nesting sites. 



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Photo: Phil Jeffrey; Range Map, NatureServe