PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Calidros melatonos) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Pectoral Sandpiper is a shorebird The head is streaked brown with two lighter lines above the eye, and the under parts white. The wings are brown with a white border, and the tail is mostly brown. The bill is almost black and the legs dark yellow. Sexes are similar, and juveniles are similar but with more brownish streaks. This sandpiper is around 8 inches (20 cm) long, which makes it one of the larger sandpipers.
NAME: The English name ‘Sandpiper’ stems from ‘sand’, and Latin ‘pipa’, which means to ‘chirp’. The name ‘Calidros’ is from ancient Greek and refers to a ‘grey shore bird’, and ‘melatonos’ refers to a ‘black back’. However the bird’s back is not black, but rather in tones of grey and brown. And the adjective ‘Pectoral’ in the English name refers to the fact that in breeding plumage, the bird has a brown streaked white breast with a clear delineation at the base (see photo below).
HABITAT: Wet tundra, mudflats along shores.
DIET: The pectoral sandpiper feeds mainly on invertebrates by either probing the ground or by sight.
BREEDING/NESTING: During courtship the male inflates its throat to emit a ‘hoot-hoot-hoot’ sound, which then makes the bird easy to identify. Pectoral sandpiper males mate with multiple females, and females also mate with multiple males. The nest is a scrape on the ground with large amounts of lining material. Four greenish eggs are laid and only the female incubates them.
DISTRIBUTION: The breeding range of this species includes the tundra along the coasts of Siberia, Alaska and Canada bordering the Arctic Ocean. In Canada the range stops at the center of the country. Pectoral sandpipers are strongly migratory, and spend the winter as far as Australia and New Zealand. Some individuals will choose the Pacific islands, including Hawaii, while others will end up in Western Europe (see reference below). Of those who are seen on Hawaii, a portion is transient, i.e. on their way to even more southern destinations.
Distribution map:
ON PEI: Although the pectoral sandpiper does not breed on Prince Edward Island, it is fairly common in the summer and fall seasons during its migration south, but seen only occasionally in the spring.
CONSERVATION: Although still listed as of ‘least concern’, the population of the pectoral sandpiper has declined in the last few decades.
NOTES: One individual was observed at the James Campbell Wildlife Refuge on Oahu in December 2018. Its photo below however does not allow 100% confirmation of its identity.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Sharp-tailed Sandpiper

Pectoral Sandpiper, nonbreeding plumage – Floreana Island, Galapagos – Jan. 2011 – photo by Benjamint444
Pectoral sandpiper, by Benjamint444
Pectoral Sandpiper in breeding plumage – photo by Andreas Trepte
Pectoral sandpiper in breeding plumage
photo by Andreas Trepte
Bristle-thighed Curlew and Pectoral Sandpiper – James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, Oahu – Dec. 20, 2018
Bristle-thighed curlew, Pectoral Sandpiper