Ada — This week’s featured creature is the spotted sandpiper. There are sandpipers that are difficult to identify from one another and then there are some that can’t be mistaken for any other bird; the spotted sandpiper is the latter. The heavily spotted underparts during the breeding season are a dead giveaway.
In winter, spotted sandpipers lose those spots, but still have their orange bills and funky walk to help identify them. Spotted sandpipers have a smooth and almost rhythmic gait as they bob their tails up and down as they stroll. The action is similar to dippers and pipits.
Their range is a little tricky. According to experts, spotted sandpipers’ summer range begins a few counties north of Ada and extends north to Alaska, while the winter range is a few counties south of Ada and extends to South America. I am sure those ranges are not perfectly accurate as birds do not observe borders, fences, etc. I was a little surprised when I saw one at Wintersmith Lake last week. It’s a little late in migration for one to be here. I hope it is breeding here and not just a late straggler.
Spotted sandpipers are shorebirds and spend most of their time near or in the shallow waters of lakes, streams, ponds and marshes. There, they hunt for aquatic insect larvae and other bugs they may find such as beetles, grasshoppers, worms and even very small fish.
Spotted sandpipers are usually monogamous. During the breeding season, traditional bird gender roles are reversed with the male mostly handling parenting duties while the female hunts and protects the nest from predators.