Purple sandpiper

The purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima) is a small shorebird. The genus name is from Ancient Greek kalidris or skalidris, a term used by Aristotle for some grey-coloured waterside birds. The specific maritima is from Latin and means "of the sea", from mare, "sea".[2]

Purple sandpiper
Calidris maritima.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Scolopacidae
Genus: Calidris
C. maritima
Binomial name
Calidris maritima
(Brünnich, 1764)
CalidrisMaritimaIUCNver2018 2.png
Range of C. maritima
  • Tringa maritima Brünnich, 1764
  • Erolia maritima (Brünnich, 1764)
  • Arquatella maritima (Brünnich, 1764)
  • Tringa striata Linnaeus, 1766


Summer plumage
Winter plumage

Adults have short yellow legs and a medium thin dark bill with a yellow base. The body is dark on top with a slight purplish gloss and mainly white underneath. The breast is smeared with grey and the rump is black. They measure 20–22 cm (7.9–8.7 in) in length and 42–46 cm (17–18 in) across the wings, and weight is from 50–105 g (1.8–3.7 oz).[3]

Standard Measurements[4][5]
length 210–240 mm (8.1–9.5 in)
weight 70 g (2.5 oz)
wingspan 430 mm (17 in)
wing 117.9–130 mm (4.64–5.12 in)
tail 55.9–63 mm (2.20–2.48 in)
culmen 27.2–32 mm (1.07–1.26 in)
tarsus 22–23.8 mm (0.87–0.94 in)


Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden, Germany

Their breeding habitat is the northern tundra on Arctic islands in Canada and coastal areas in Greenland and northwestern Europe. They nest on the ground either elevated on rocks or in lower damp location. The males makes several scrapes; the female chooses one and lays 3 or 4 eggs. The male takes the major responsibility for incubation and tends the chicks. The young feed themselves.

An apparent case of hybridization between this species and the dunlin has been reported from England.[6]

Range and migrationEdit

In Britain, these birds occur in winter in good numbers principally along the east and south coasts, where they favour rocky shorelines adjacent to the sea.[citation needed] It is much rarer as a breeding bird, found only in a localised area of the Cairngorms National Park, where 1–3 pairs have bred since the 1970s.[citation needed] Records of breeding by this species in the UK are monitored and archived by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel.[citation needed]

They are late migrants and move to rocky, ice-free Atlantic coasts in winter.[citation needed] Most go no further south than North Carolina and northern Portugal. They are fairly gregarious, forming small flocks, often with Ruddy Turnstones. This species is tame and approachable.[citation needed]


These birds forage on rocky coasts, picking up food by sight.[citation needed] They mainly eat arthropods and molluscs, also some plant material. One of the main staples are those of the Coelopa genera (C. frigida).[citation needed] These insects are known commonly as "seaweed flies" because they feed, mate, and create a habitat out of beached seaweed which is common near the Purple Sandpiper's habitat.[citation needed]


The purple sandpiper is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Calidris maritima". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 84, 242. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  3. ^ "Purple Sandpiper". All About Birds. Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
  4. ^ Godfrey, W. Earl (1966). The Birds of Canada. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada. p. 151.
  5. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf. p. 181. ISBN 0-679-45122-6.
  6. ^ Millington, Richard (1994). "A mystery Calidris at Cley". Birding World. 7 (2): 61–63. Archived from the original on 17 June 2004.

External linksEdit