Bird Database

Upland Sandpiper

(Bartramia longicauda)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Long distance




Habitat loss and fragmentation, Mowing

Conservation Actions

Time mowing of grassland habitats to minimize imacts on ground-nesting birds

Upland Sandpiper

(Bartramia longicauda)

The Upland Sandpiper is well named, since unlike most of New Hampshire’s sandpipers it is rarely associated with water. Instead, it is a bird of grasslands throughout its annual cycle, with most of the population breeding on the Great Plains and wintering in the Pampas and agricultural fields in South America. It expanded eastward in the 1800s following forest clearing, and probably reached peak abundance in most of New England in the 1870s and 1880s. This heyday in the region did not last long, and by the middle of the 20th century Upland Sandpipers had declined significantly through the combined effects of reforestation, development, and market hunting.

Now almost all Upland Sandpipers in New England occur at airports, which support the shorter grass the species prefers. This is a risky habitat choice, since airports are required to mow regularly for safety reasons, which of course isn’t easily compatible with ground nesting birds. At many of these airports, conservation biologists have worked out agreements with site managers to improve conditions for Upland Sandpipers, but the species toehold in the region remains a tenuous one. The one possible exception is Maine, where they also nest in Downeast blueberry barrens.

To see an Upland Sandpiper in New Hampshire you need to visit the Pease airfield in Portsmouth and Newington, where fewer than ten pairs currently nest. If you’re lucky, and have a scope, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of birds in short grass or perched on runway lights or other airport infrastructure, but you are far more likely to hear one. Their “wolf whistle” call, mingled with the songs of meadowlarks and Bobolinks, evokes the expanses of the North American prairies in this small outpost for the species in the Granite State.

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.

Upland 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