9 Types Of SANDPIPERS In Florida (ID Guide With Photos)
Did you recently come across a sandpiper in Florida, and want to know what species it was?
Identifying sandpipers in the Sunshine State is not an easy matter, since there are many sandpiper species that are regularly encountered in Florida (especially during migration season).
To help you identify the bird you saw, we’ll cover the most common sandpipers of Florida in this article.
What are the types of sandpipers in Florida?
There are 9 types of sandpipers found in Florida, which are described in full detail below.
Note that we only included actual sandpipers in this article, and left out other shorebirds that are sometimes lumped in with sandpipers (such as sanderlings, stints, dowitchers, yellow legs, curlews, etc.).
If you’re interested in learning more about this larger group of waders, check out our guide to the shore birds of Florida.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these birds:
Scientific name: Actitis macularius
The Spotted Sandpiper is a common wintering bird in Florida, where it can be found on the edges of creeks and estuaries, as well as in freshwater habitats.
During the winter this water bird has a brownish gray upperside, which contrasts with its bright white underside. A great way to identify it is by its constant bobbing of the tail.
It forages on banksides and muddy areas, where it picks up small insects and invertebrates from the ground.
Scientific name: Bartramia longicauda
Upland Sandpipers breed in the prairies and grasslands of the northern United States and southern Canada.
They are one of the few sandpipers that is almost never encountered in wetlands, and instead prefer grasslands both in their breeding grounds and their wintering grounds in southern South America.
These birds are scarce visitors in Florida during fall migration from late July through September, when they can turn up on any type of field.
Scientific name: Calidris himantopus
The Stilt Sandpiper is a breeding bird of the northern parts of Canada and Alaska, but can be seen throughout eastern North America during fall and spring migration.
The best features to identify this brid are its long yellow legs, as well as their thick, slightly curved beak.
These birds are found in freshwater habitats, and avoid coastal mudflats. A small number of these birds winters in southern Florida, while the majority winters in the Caribbean as well as South America.
Scientific name: Calidris minutilla
As its name suggests, the Least Sandpiper is the smallest sandpiper species in North America, and is hardly larger than a sparrow.
These birds breed in the arctic tundra habitats of Canada and Alaska, but winter throughout the southern United States, including Florida.
Their preferred habitats are coastal mudflats and beaches, where they are often encountered foraging together with other shorebirds at the edge of the water.
Scientific name: Calidris fuscicollis
These sandpipers are breeding birds of the high arctic, while their wintering grounds are all the way at the southern tip of South America, making their migration route one of the longest of all North American birds.
White-rumped Sandpipers are larger than Least Sandpipers, but are often encountered together with the latter.
Their preferred habitat during migration are coastal mudflats, and this is where you can see them in Florida during the migration season.
Scientific name: Calidris melanotos
The Pectoral Sandpiper is somewhat easier to identify than most other sandpipers, due to its distinctive brown streaked chest, which contrasts with a bright white belly.
These birds breed in the arctic tundra, but are commonly observed in the eastern United States during migration.
In Florida, these birds occur from late July to early October, and are usually encountered in grassland and marshland habitats.
Scientific name: Calidris pusilla
These sandpipers are among the most common shorebirds during migration, and often occur in flocks of hundreds of birds.
During migration they prefer mudflats and coastal wetlands, where they feed together with other shorebirds.
In Florida, these birds can be seen during spring migration in April and May, and again during fall migration in August and September.
Scientific name: Calidris mauri
The Western Sandpiper breeds on the west coast of Alaska, but winters throughout southern North America, including Florida.
These small sandpipers have a lot of contrast in their plumage, with a dark brown mottled back contrasting with a pure white underside. During the breeding season, their head takes on rufous and golden hues.
Look for these birds on tidal mudflats in Florida, as well as freshwater habitats located close to the shore.
Scientific name: Tringa solitaria
The Solitary Sandpiper has a grey upper side covered with fine white speckles, while the belly is uniformly white. A great distinguishing feature is its white eyering.
These birds breed throughout large parts of Canada, and are observed in the United States during migration, when they pass through on their way to wintering grounds in Central and Southern America.
Unlike most other shorebirds, these birds are found at freshwater habitats, including marshes, flooded fields, and river banks.
In summary, here are the 9 types of sandpipers that can be encountered in Florida:
- Spotted Sandpiper
- Upland Sandpiper
- Stilt Sandpiper
- Least Sandpiper
- White-rumped Sandpiper
- Pectoral Sandpiper
- Semipalmated Sandpiper
- Western Sandpiper
- Solitary Sandpiper
If you’ve spotted one of these sandpipers while bird watching in Florida, but aren’t sure which species of bird it was, check our detailed ID guide with photos above.
Identifying sandpipers can be challenging even for seasoned birdwatchers.
Not only do they look very similar to each other, but you also have to deal with the differences between breeding and non-breeding plumage, as well as the appearance of immature birds.
The best way to observe these shorebirds is with a spotting scope, as that allows you to observe them at a distance.
It’s also a good idea to look for them at high tide, since that concentrates these waders into a smaller area, making it easier for birders to watch them.
If you enjoyed this article, check out our guide to the types of white birds in Florida.