Spotted sandpipers are small shorebirds that occur across North America. Adults have short yellowish legs and an orange bill with a dark tip. Their body is brown on top and white underneath with black spots. Non-breeding birds, depicted below, do not have the spotted underparts, and are very similar to the Common sandpiper of Eurasia; the main difference is the more washed-out wing pattern visible in flight and the normally light yellow legs and feet of the Spotted sandpiper.
Spotted sandpipers breed across most of Canada and the United States. They migrate to the southern United States, the Caribbean, and South America. During the breeding season, these birds are found near freshwater including, lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. On migration and on the wintering grounds Spotted pipers inhabit seashores, beaches, mudflats, mangroves, and lagoons.
Spotted sandpipers are not gregarious birds, and are seldom seen in flocks. They are diurnal spending the day preening, bathing, and foraging. Spotted sandpipers feed on the ground or in shallow water, picking up food by sight. They may also catch insects in flight. As Spotted sandpipes forage, they can be recognized by their constant nodding and teetering. When alarmed the birds produce a 'weet-weet' and 'peet-peet-peet' calls.; they also communicate with soft trills and in flight make a series of 'peet' notes.
Spotted sandpipers are polyandrous and during each summer breeding season, females may mate with and lay clutches for more than one male, leaving incubation to them. Females that fail to find additional mates usually help incubate and rear chicks. Spotted sandpipers nest on the ground near the water and hide their nests under shrubs or weeds. The nest is shallow depression lined with grass, moss, or sometimes feathers. The female lays 3-4 eggs per clutch and the male incubates them alone for 20-24 days. The chicks are precocial and are able to walk soon after hatching. They are able to feed themselves and are tended primarily by the male. The young usually fledge 17-21 days after hatching and start to breed when they are about 1 year old.
Although Spotted sandpipers are widespread and common their numbers are declining mainly due to habitat loss, the use of pesticides, and hunting.
According to Partners in Flight resource, the total population size of the Spotted sandpiper is 660,000 breeding individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.
Due to their diet habits Spotted sandpipes control populations of their prey items and in turn serve as an important food source for local predators.