Bird Database

Spotted Sandpiper

(Actitis macularius)

State of the Birds
At a Glance







Shoreline development

Conservation Actions

Protect shoreline habitats, minimize disturbance to shorebirds

Spotted Sandpiper

(Actitis macularius)

Spotted Sandpipers are a shorebird that uses shorelines at all times of year, in contrast with most species that nest in grasslands or tundra and only use coasts during migration or winter. In New Hampshire this species can be found both inland, where it nests mainly along ponds, lakes, and rivers, and the coast, where it frequents rocky shorelines. The nest is typically tucked into vegetation in all cases, which also helps shelter the chicks when they hatch.

The breeding system of Spotted Sandpipers is unique among New Hampshire’s nesting shorebirds. They are polyandrous, meaning that a female may mate with several males. Females are larger and are also the sex that sets up and defends a breeding territory, to which she will try to attract multiple males. After laying a clutch, both birds will share in incubation duties, but the female will continue looking for additional mates. If she succeeds, her nesting assistance shifts primarily to the new mate, leaving the first on his own. Female Spotted Sandpipers have been recorded having as many as four mates and broods going simultaneously.

Spotted Sandpipers lose their spots by late summer and begin shifting toward the coasts. By September they have left the state and are on their way to coasts of the southeastern United States Caribbean, and Central America. In the tropics they add habitats like mangroves and mountain streams to their list. Spotted Sandpipers defend small winter foraging territories, although these have not been extensively studied.

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.

Spotted 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