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HomeSpits­ber­gen infor­ma­ti­onWild­life → Pur­ple sand­pi­per

Purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima)

If during a walk on the beach sud­den­ly a small grey-brown bird with a splay­ed, sup­po­sedly inju­red wing runs very clo­se in front of you, it could be a Pur­ple sand­pi­per. The bird plays inju­red to lure alle­ged pre­da­tors away.

Purple sandpiper

Pur­ple sand­pi­per.

Descrip­ti­on: The Pur­ple sand­pi­per is a small, stur­dy wader (21 cm long, weight 60-100 g) with a 3 cm long, slight­ly down-bent beak. The sexes look ali­ke. During sum­mer, the plu­mage is brow­nish with a pale bel­ly. Among­st the small birds that occur on the coast, often on the beach, and in the tun­dra of Spits­ber­gen, the Pur­ple sand­pi­per is the most com­mon one and it is not unu­su­al to see seve­ral tog­e­ther.

Distribution/Migrations: Pur­ple sand­pi­pers occur from nor­the­as­tern Cana­da to nor­thwes­tern Rus­sia. In Sval­bard, they breed on flat, dry tun­dra. In ear­ly May, they come to the bree­ding are­as and stay to Sep­tem­ber or even later. They spend the win­ter in Scan­di­na­via.

Bio­lo­gy: Pur­ple sand­pi­pers live on crustace­ans and insects and accor­din­gly spend a lot of time on the shore­li­ne and in the tidal zone, sear­ching for food.

Purple sandpiper

Pur­ple sand­pi­per loo­king for food in the tidal zone. Cora­hol­men.

They can also be seen fur­ther inland and at some alti­tu­de. Bree­ding pairs build a nest of plant mate­ri­al on the tun­dra. Both par­ents take their share of incu­ba­ting, altog­e­ther about four weeks, but the male spends most time on the eggs and with the off­spring, lea­ving the nest soon after hat­ching.

Mis­cel­la­neous: If you approach too clo­se to the nest, the Pur­ple sand­pi­per pre­tends to be inju­red and runs away, cat­ching your eye with a rai­sed wing, try­ing to lead the poten­ti­al pre­da­tor away from the nest. If you see this, you must move away quick­ly to make sure that eggs and chicks are not expo­sed any lon­ger than neces­sa­ry. You can fol­low the bird until it flies back, as it will lead you away from the nest. But when loo­king for food on the beach, Pur­ple sand­pi­pers are not shy and are quite easy to obser­ve.

Purple sandpiper

Pur­ple sand­pi­pers.



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last modification: 2019-02-23 · copyright: Rolf Stange