CURLEW SANDPIPER (Calidris ferruginea) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Curlew Sandpiper breeding adult has ferruginous under parts, breast, head and neck. Breast has fine barring. Bill is thin, slightly down curved, longer than the head and black. Eyes and legs are black. In non-breeding plumage the top parts are mottled brown, breast is brown-streaked and under parts are white. Sexes are similar. Bird length is around 22 cm (9 inches).
NAME: ‘Curlew’ stems from French onomatopoeia ‘corlieu’, in imitation of the bird’s call. ‘Sandpiper’ stems from ‘sand’, and Latin ‘pipa’, which means to ‘chirp’. Latin genus name ‘Calidris’ refers to a grey speckled shorebird. Latin species name ‘ferruginea’ means ‘rusty red’, for the under parts color.
HABITAT: Wet tundra in summer, mudflats, beaches in winter.
DIET: Insects, crustaceans, molluscs. Forages in mud with long bill.
NESTING: Nest is a shallow depression on a low mound. Usually four light green are laid, likely incubated by female. Chicks can feed themselves soon after hatching, but female cares for them.
DISTRIBUTION: Breeds in Russian tundra. Migrates to Northern Africa, and winters in Central, southeast and South Africa, and along the coast of southwest Africa. Other groups migrate along the coasts of southeast Asia, the coasts of Indonesia and of Australia. Small groups migrate along the coasts of Eastern North America. Others have reached Hawaii, even New Zealand (see note below on Bird Vagrancy).
Distribution Map:
ON PEI: Does not breed on Prince Edward Island, observed occasionally in the fall during migration.
CONSERVATION: Population appears linked to the lemming cycle in the Arctic. In years when the latter are scarce in the Arctic, predators such as Snowy Owls and Jaegers feed on shorebirds instead. Considered as ‘near threatened’ due to habitat loss and illegal hunting.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
NOTES: On their wintering grounds these sandpipers gather in large flocks mixed with other shorebird species.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Red Knot, Dunlin (non-breeding)
REFERENCES: (Montana Field Guide) (Nature Gate Finland) (New Zealand Birds Online) vagrant (British Trust for Ornithology) (Birding in Portugal)

Curlew Sandpiper, breeding plumage – India – Apr. 2014 – photo by Davidvraju
Curlew sandpiper, breeding plumage
by Davidvraju
Curlew Sandpiper, non-breeding plumage – Pak Thale, Petchaburi, Thailand – Jan. 2013 – photo by J.J. Harrison
Curlew sandpiper, nonbreeding plumage
by J.J. Harrison
Curlew Sandpiper – Poland – Jan. 2005 – photo by Marek Szczepanek
Curlew sandpiper, by Marek Szczepanek