Curlew sandpiper

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Curlew sandpiper
Calidris ferruginea, winter adult, Pak Thale.jpg
Non-breeding plumage
Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) (44855173205).jpg
Breeding plumage
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Scolopacidae
Genus: Calidris
C. ferruginea
Binomial name
Calidris ferruginea
(Pontoppidan, 1763)
Calidris ferruginea map.svg

Erolia ferruginea Vieillot, 1816

The curlew sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) is a small wader that breeds on the tundra of Arctic Siberia.

It is strongly migratory, wintering mainly in Africa, but also in south and southeast Asia and in Australia and New Zealand.[2] It is a vagrant to North America.


The curlew sandpiper was formally described in 1763 by the Danish author Erik Pontoppidan under the binomial name Tringa ferrugineus.[3] It is now placed with 23 other sandpipers in the genus Calidris that was introduced in 1804 by the German naturalist Blasius Merrem.[4][5] The genus name is from Ancient Greek kalidris or skalidris, a term used by Aristotle for some grey-coloured waterside birds. The specific ferruginea is from Latin ferrugo, ferruginis, "iron rust" referring to its colour in breeding plumage.[6] The curlew sandpiper is treated as monotypic: no subspecies are recognised.[5] Within the genus Calidris the curlew sandpiper is most closely related to the stilt sandpiper (Calidris himantopus).[7]

This species occasionally hybridizes with the sharp-tailed sandpiper and the pectoral sandpiper, producing the presumed "species" called "Cooper's sandpiper" ("Calidris" × cooperi) and "Cox's sandpiper" ("Calidris" × paramelanotos), respectively.[8][9]


With red-necked stint, Manly Marina, SE Queensland, Australia

These birds are small waders, similar to dunlins,[10] but differ in having a longer down-curved beak, longer neck and legs and a white rump. They have a length of 18–23 cm (7.1–9.1 in), weight of 44-117 g[11] and wingspan of 38–41 cm (15–16 in). The breeding adult has patterned dark grey upperparts and brick-red underparts. In winter, this bird is pale grey above and white below, and shows an obvious white supercilium. Juveniles have a grey and brown back, a white belly and a peach-coloured breast.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The curlew sandpiper breeds in the Siberian Arctic from the Yamal Peninsula to the Kolyuchin Bay.[12]


This wader is highly gregarious, and will form flocks with other calidrid waders, particularly dunlin. Despite its easterly breeding range, this species is regular on passage in western Europe, presumably because of southwesterly migration route.


The breeding grounds are occupied from June till late August.[13] The male curlew sandpiper performs an aerial display during courtship.[14] The nesting site is at the edge of a marsh or pool, or on dry patches of tundra. The average clutch size is 3.8 eggs which are laid at daily intervals. The eggs are incubated by the female and hatch after 19–20 days. The chicks are cared for by the female for 14–16 days.[12]

The reproductive success of this species appears to be dependent on the population of lemmings (West Siberian lemmings (Lemmus sibiricus), East Siberian lemmings (Lemmus paulus) and the Arctic lemming (Dicrostonyx torquatus). In poor lemming years, predatory species such as the Arctic fox (Alopes lagopus) will take Arctic-breeding waders instead.[15][16]

Food and feeding[edit]

It forages in soft mud on marshes and the coast, mainly picking up food by sight. It mostly eats insects and other small invertebrates.[17]


Counts of the curlew sandpipe in South Africa, specifically at Langebaan Lagoon where they are most numerous, indicate a 40% decline in numbers between 1975 and 2009. A similar trend has been noted in Australia and may be linked to effects of global warming at the breeding grounds.[18] It has an extremely large range but although the population is large it is very hard to determine and appears to be decreasing,. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has judged the species to be "Near-threatened".[1] The curlew sandpiper is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.[19]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2017). "Calidris ferruginea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2017: e.T22693431A110631069. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-1.RLTS.T22693431A110631069.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ Thomas Alerstam (1993). Bird Migration. Cambridge University Press. p. 61. ISBN 9780521448222.
  3. ^ Pontoppidan, Erik (1763). Den Danske Atlas eller Konge-Riget Dannemark (in Danish). Vol. 1. Kiøbenhavn: Godiche. p. 624.
  4. ^ Merrem, Blasius (8 June 1804). "Naturgeschichte". Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung (in German). 168. Col. 542. Published anonymously.
  5. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (July 2021). "Sandpipers, snipes, coursers". IOC World Bird List Version 11.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  6. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 84, 159. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  7. ^ Gibson, Rosemary; Baker, Allan (2012). "Multiple gene sequences resolve phylogenetic relationships in the shorebird suborder Scolopaci (Aves: Charadriiformes)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 64 (1): 66–72. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.03.008. PMID 22491071.
  8. ^ Cox, John B. (1989). "Notes on the affinities of Cooper's and Cox's sandpipers" (PDF). South Australian Ornithologist. 30: 169–181.
  9. ^ Cox, John B. (1990). "The measurements of Cooper's Sandpiper and the occurrence of a similar bird in Australia" (PDF). South Australian Ornithologist. 31: 38–43.
  10. ^ "Curlew sandpiper". RSPB.
  11. ^ "Bécasseau cocorli - Calidris ferruginea - Curlew Sandpiper". Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  12. ^ a b Piersma, T.; van Gils, J.; Wiersma, P. (1996). "Curlew sandpiper". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. pp. 524–525. ISBN 978-84-87334-20-7.
  13. ^ Cramp 1983, p. 341.
  14. ^ Holmes, Richard T.; Pitelka, Frank A. (1964). "Breeding behavior and taxonomic relationships of the Curlew Sandpiper". The Auk. 81 (3): 362–379. doi:10.2307/4082691. JSTOR 4082691.
  15. ^ Roselaar, C.S. (1979). "Fluctuaties in aantallen krombekstrandlopers Calidris ferruginea" [Variation in the numbers of curlew sandpipers (Calidris ferruginea)] (PDF). Watervogels (in Dutch). 4: 202–210.
  16. ^ Blomqvist, S.; Holmgren, N.; Åkesson, S.; Hedenström, A.; Pettersson, J. (2002). "Indirect effects of lemming cycles on Sandpiper dynamics: 50 Years of counts from Southern Sweden". Oecologia. 133 (2): 146–158. Bibcode:2002Oecol.133..146B. doi:10.1007/s00442-002-1017-2. JSTOR 4223402. PMID 28547301. S2CID 299919.
  17. ^ Cramp 1983, pp. 341–342.
  18. ^ de Villiers, M.S., ed. (2009). Birds and Environmental Change: building an early warning system in South Africa. Pretoria: SANBI. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-620-45305-9.
  19. ^ "Species". Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). Retrieved 27 November 2021.


  • Cramp, Stanley, ed. (1983). "Calidris ferruginea Curlew Sandpiper". Handbook of the Birds of Europe the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. III: Waders to Gulls. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 339–345. ISBN 978-0-19-857506-1.

External links[edit]