Calidris Maritima – Purple Sandpiper

Calidris Maritima - Purple Sandpiper found in the US

Calidris maritima (purple sandpiper) is a tiny shorebird in the sandpiper family Scolopacidae. This resilient sandpiper breeds in Eurasia and North America’s arctic and subarctic regions and winters further south along the Atlantic coast.

Quick Overview: Calidris Maritima – Purple Sandpiper
Body size: Around 9 in (23 cm) and a weight of 77g (2.7 oz)
Main colors: Gray, Orange, White
Range: Eastern United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: January, February, December
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Purple Sandpiper Description

Purple sandpipers are medium-sized waders that are larger, stockier, and darker in color than dunlins. It is predominantly dark gray on top and pales on the bottom. Its beak is bent downward and its legs are short and brilliant orange. When it flies, it exhibits a fine white wing-stripe.

Calidris Maritima - Purple Sandpiper found in the US
Calidris Maritima – Purple Sandpiper. Photo by: Gary Leavens

Size

These birds have a length of 9 in (23 cm) and a weight of 77 g (2.7 oz). Their wings could range from 17 in (43 cm).

Feeding

Purple sandpipers are molluscivores by nature, but they also consume insects and algae. They are mostly voracious eaters of winkles, mussels, dog pups, and marine snails. Purple sandpipers feed on larvae, pupae, and adult kelp flies during high tide when the waves cover the molluscs. Additionally, they feed on crustaceans, annelids, spiders, and aphids, as well as seeds, leaves, and berries.

Habitat

Purple sandpipers breed near sea level in the High Arctic, whereas those in the Low Arctic breed inland and at heights greater than 1000 m. They eat in the tundra’s rocky intertidal zones. They can be found on rocky coastlines during migration, and their preferred winter habitat is rocky shores or sandy beaches.

Behavior

Walking, hopping, flying, and swimming are all forms of locomotion. Purple sandpipers are nimble when foraging on intertidal rocks. They can be spotted swimming along the coasts during the non-breeding season, foraging for mussels and other aquatic invertebrates. Chicks will also swim to forage, led by the male. Except during migration, they are slow fliers who generally flutter over rocks. When they do fly, they do it with rapid and powerful wing beats.

Calidris Maritima Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Charadriiformes
  • Family: Scolopacidae
  • Genus: Calidris
  • Species: Calidris maritima

Best time of the year to see

The best time to see these birds in the United States is during the winter season (December to February).

Distribution of the Purple Sandpiper in the USA

During the fall and winter months, this species is found along the Atlantic Coast’s rocky shorelines. Winter ranges from Quebec to South Carolina, although it is rarely seen as far south as Florida.

The Purple Sandpiper can be found in the following states in the United States – Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.

Calidris Maritima – Purple Sandpiper

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