Pectoral Sandpiper

Did you know?

When disturbed Pectoral Sandpipers may freeze or fly zigzag before dropping to cover.

A hoarse dry reedy chirrup or grating trrip-trrip when flushed, becoming harsher and louder if alarmed
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May to August
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Basic Information
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What does it look like?

 The Pectoral sandpiper is a small to medium-small sandpiper with mottled brown upper parts. It has a grey breast with dark streaking which is sharply demarcated from it's clean white belly. The legs are yellowish and the bill is olive with a darker tip.  In flight Pectoral sandpipers show prominent white sides to a dark-centred rump and tail and an indistinct narrow white wing-bar. Breeding plumage is slightly richer in colour with a slight russet tinge.

Similar species: 

The Pectoral Sandpiper is very similar in size, shape and plumage to the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.   It is slightly slimmer, with a longer neck, more rounded crown and lower more sloping forehead, slightly shorter legs and, on average, a slightly longer and more strongly decurved bill. 

Where does it live?

The Pectoral Sandpiper is a regular, uncommon, non-breeding migrant from the Siberian and American Arctic. It is sighted mostly in South eastern Australia, in the Murray Darling Basin and western Victoria.   The birds arrive mainly in coastal areas and then disperse inland.


On migration and in winter, the Pectoral Sandpiper is typically found in freshwater habitats usually coastal or near-coastal, but occasionally farther inland. This includes: coastal lagoons, estuaries, swamps, lakes, creeks, floodplains, and artificial wetlands. Wetlands often have open fringing mudflats, and low, emergent or fringing vegetation.

Seasonal movements: 

Pectoral Sandpipers are uncommon migrants to Australia which arrive in August - September and depart again in March-April. 

What does it do?

Pectoral sandpipers are omnivorous, mainly eating algae, seeds, crustaceans, spiders and insects. While feeding they move slowly on grass fringing water or in very shallow water, probing repeatedly with rapid strokes in a small area. They are rarely seen on open mudflats.


Pectoral Sandpipers nest from the tundra of easternmost Russia across Alaska and into northern Canada. A few migrate to Australasia for the northern winter, but most winter in southern South America.

Their nest, a hole scraped in the ground and with a thick lining, is made deep enough to protect its eggs from the cool breezes of its breeding grounds. 

Living with us

There are a number of threats that affect migratory shorebirds. The greatest threat is habitat loss. Staging areas used during migration through eastern Asia are being lost and degraded by activities which are reclaiming the mudflats for development which includes aquaculture.

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