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Pectoral Sandpiper

Calidris melanotos

Length: 8 to 9 inches Wingspan: 15 to 16 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Sharp contrast between streaked breast and white belly, yellow legs

Pectoral Sandpiper - Calidris melanotosThe name of a Pectoral Sandpiper refers to an inflatable air sac the male uses in it's courtship display.  Pectoral Sandpipers do have an important field identification characteristic in a sharp abrupt contrast between the streaks of the upper breast and the white of the belly.  For shorebirds that migrate through South Dakota, they can also be identified by their unique combination of 1) yellow legs, and 2) a two-toned bill with yellow at the base and darker towards the end.  They can most often be seen in very shallow flooded pastures and grassy  mudflats. 


Flooded pastures, muddy shorelines, shallow ponds.  Prefers areas with some grass/emergent vegetation rather than open mudflats.


Mostly insects, also small crustaceans, seeds, and spiders.


Forages in shallow water, mudflats with vegetation, or wet meadows.  Uses its bill to probe in the mud, or plucks food items from the ground, foliage, or water's surface.


Non-breeder in South Dakota. On their breeding range, Pectoral Sandpipers construct a cup-shaped nest on the ground, built of grasses and leaves. The female lays three to five eggs, and she alone incubates them. The young hatch after about 3 weeks.


Low churrrt, krrrek, or tik-tik-tik vocalizations. The male uses it's inflatable air sac to vocalize during courtship displays, with a variety of individual vocalizations made in series.

1Click here to hear the complex song of a Pectoral Sandpiper, recorded on the North Slope of Alaska.

2Click here to hear the gurgling call of a Pectoral Sandpiper, recorded on the North Slope of Alaska.

3Click here to hear the calls of a small group of Pectoral Sandpipers, recorded in Quitman County, Mississippi.


Summers in extreme northern Canada, winters in South America

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here for an interactive eBird map of Pectoral Sandpiper sightings

Similar Species:

With a combination of moderate size (for a shorebird in South Dakota), yellow legs, bill coloration and shape, and sharp demarcation between breast markings and a clean white belly, Pectoral Sandpipers are relatively easy to differentiate from other shorebirds in the state. However, they could potentially be confused with the following species:

Conservation Status:

Numbers are generally stable throughout its range, populations overall are large, and they are found across a broad geographic area. The IUCN considers the Pectoral Sandpiper to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Pectoral Sandpiper

2) WhatBird - Pectoral Sandpiper

3) Audubon Guide - Pectoral Sandpiper

Photo Information:

May 14th, 2004 -- Madison Waterfowl Production Area -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Pectoral Sandpiper photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Jarmo Pirhonen, XC426277. Accessible at

2Peter Boesman, XC323082. Accessible at

3J.R. Rigby, XC308705. Accessible at


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Pectoral Sandpiper - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant in the eastern part of the state, less common in the western part.

Additional Pectoral Sandpiper Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Pectoral Sandpiper 1 - Calidris melanotosPectoral Sandpiper 2 - Calidris melanotosPectoral Sandpiper 3 - Calidris melanotosPectoral Sandpiper 4 - Calidris melanotosPectoral Sandpiper 5 - Calidris melanotosPectoral Sandpiper 6 - Calidris melanotosPectoral Sandpiper 7 - Calidris melanotosPectoral Sandpiper 8 - Calidris melanotos