Common Sandpiper: Foraging behaviour

posted in: Migration-Migrants, Species, Waders | 1

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.

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