Bird Database

Least Sandpiper

(Calidris minutilla)

State of the Birds
At a Glance





Increasing or Stable


Climate change

Conservation Actions

Protect coastal habitats, Minimize disturbanceto shorebrids

Least Sandpiper

(Calidris minutilla)

The small confusing sandpipers collectively known as “peeps” are only found in New Hampshire during spring and fall migration. Of these, the Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers are the most likely to be encountered. Separating these two species often requires looking at several features. Leg color is the most reliable, with Leasts having greenish-yellow legs compared to the Semipalmated’s black ones (beware of birds with muddy legs). Leasts are also browner, have a finer bill, and are clearly smaller than Semipalmateds in direct comparison. If birds are far or way or in a dense flock, it might not be possible to identify them to species.

Although similar in appearance, these two shorebirds differ in several aspects of their ecologies. Although both are found across the arctic, Leasts breed farther south than any other “peep” (Newfoundland, plus a highly unusual record of a chick on an island off Cape Cod!) and also winter much farther north (into the southern United States). They are more likely to occur inland in New Hampshire, where they can be found in flooded fields and shallow grassy wetlands. Although they occur with Semipalmated Sandpipers along the coast, they tend to be less common and more likely to occur in marshy areas instead of sandy and rocky beaches.

Perhaps because they are less concentrated than other shorebirds, it is difficult to obtain data on population size and trend for this species. The most recent trend information suggests that Least Sandpiper populations are either stable or showing a slower decline than seen in other species. Like other sandpipers they are subject to multiple threats across their long migratory journeys, but it’s possible that the Least Sandpiper’s broader habitat use and tendency to be more dispersed have reduced the impacts of those threats.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Least Sandpiper
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count