Common Sandpiper: Foraging behaviour

on 17th December 2008

The Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) is not resident to Singapore. It is a winter visitor and passage migrant. And comes August, these sandpipers begin to arrive, their number increasing through September to March. By that month most would have left. So common are the Common Sandpipers during these months that most traditional birdwatchers fail to see them – remember the saying “you may look but you do not see.”

As an “experienced” birdwatcher told me recently, “I saw the bird years ago and ticked my checklist. What is there to see in this common bird? They are so common that it is not worth my time to direct my bino at them!” This birdwatcher obviously prefers to look at barbets under sunny conditions than at sandpipers under a cloudy sky.

But not KC Tsang, who looked at the Common Sandpiper and immediately saw things differently, noting that it “…can be fairly easily distinguished from all similar waders by its constant bobbing of it’s tail as it walks around the shoreline. It also has short legs, but not as short as those of the Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus).

“When it is on the hunt, the Common Sandpiper is more relaxed and controlled, it does not do wild sprints like the Terek, as it walks bobbing all the time. It would look around for prospective preys, and do very short sprints when required.

“Having got his prey, a little crab for example, it would also stun and dismember its legs by smashing it onto the rocks before attempting to swallow it. It is again amazing how this bird could swallow this crab whole.”

Image by KC Tsang.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

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