Species Profile and Threats Database

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EPBC Act Listing Status Listed marine
Listed migratory - JAMBA
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument].
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument].
Scientific name Calidris bairdii [854]
Family Scolopacidae:Charadriiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Coues,1861)
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map not available for this taxon.
Illustrations Google Images

Scientific Name: Calidris bairdii

Common Name: Baird's Sandpiper

Baird's Sandpiper is a conventionally accepted species (Christidis & Boles 1994, 2008; Higgins & Davies 1996; Sibley & Monroe 1990).

Baird's Sandpiper is a small (length: 14–17 cm; weight: 40 g) slender shorebird with short legs and very long wings. Sexes are indistinguishable in both breeding and non-breeding plumage; juveniles are distinctive.

In breeding plumage, the head and neck are buff-brown with black streaks. The mantle and scapulars are black with buff fringes; the rump and uppertail coverts are sepia with pale rufous edges; and the uppertail is ash-brown with a darker centre. The face is buff-brown with an indistinct buff supercilium, a narrow, dark brown loral stripe which combines with buff-brown ear coverts to form a dusky eye-stripe, and an off-white chin and throat. The front of the neck and breast are buff with fine dark streaks which grade to black spots on the sides of the breast, sharply demarcated from the white belly. The upperwings are mainly grey-brown with blackish brown flight feathers and a white wing bar; and the underwings are white with a dusky leading and trailing edges. The bill is black; the eyes dark brown and the legs and feet are blackish (Higgins & Davies 1996; Veit & Jonsson 1984).

In non-breeding plumage, the head and neck are grey-brown with fine dark streaks, with the rest of the upperbody grey brown. The face is grey-brown with a dark loral stripe and a pale supercilium, with a white chin and throat. The front of the neck and the breast are grey-buff, with fine dark streaks, and the belly is white. The upperwings have grey-brown or buff-brown inner coverts, with darker brown tertials and greater coverts. Juveniles are similar to adults in non-breeding plumage, but with much bolder streaking, and white fringes to the feathers on the upperparts, giving a distinctly scaled appearance (Higgins & Davies 1996; Veit & Jonsson 1984).

In its usual range the species usually occurs in flocks, though it is less gregarious than other Calidris waders, but in Australia, where it only occurs as a vagrant, it is likely to be seen singly. All records of Baird's Sandpipers in Australia have been of single birds.

Baird's Sandpiper is a vagrant to Australia, with five accepted records: Eyre, Western Australia- 7 March 1979 (Curry 1979); Palmerston, Northern Territory- 28 October 1983 (McKean 1984); Lauderdale, Tasmania- 15–24 October 1966 (Milledge 1968); Lake Connewarre, near Geelong, Victoria- 1–25 February 1986 (Smith 1987); and Buckland Park, South Australia- 17 December 1986–4 February 1987 (Snell 1988). There have also been several unaccepted or unverified reports from Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The species is a vagrant in Australia, so there are no estimates of the extent of occurrence of the Baird's Sandpiper in Australia. The estimated global extent of occurrence is 1 000 000–10 000 000 km² (Birdlife International 2007).

There are no published estimates of the area of occupancy of the Baird's Sandpiper.

The species is widespread in North America, Central America and northern South America, especially when on migration.

There are no current captive populations of this species and none have been reintroduced into the wild.

Though the species' breeding grounds (arctic North America) and non-breeding grounds (South America, mostly south of the Equator) are widely separated, the distribution should not be considered fragmented.

The species is widespread in North America, Central America and northern South America, especially when on migration.

Breeding distribution
Baird's Sandpiper breeds in the Arctic, the Chukotski Peninsula in north-eastern Siberia, northern parts of Alaska and Canada, and north-western Greenland (AOU 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Myers et al. 1982; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

On passage
Baird's Sandpipers which breed in Siberia migrate east across the Bering Strait to join with North American birds, and then migrate south, through inland Canada and the United States, generally passing west of Central America (Bent 1962; Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; van Gils & Wiersma 1996). Vagrants have been occasionally recorded in Central America and islands in the Caribbean Sea on migration (e.g. Begazo 1992; Blake 1977; Murphy 1991).

Non-breeding distribution
Most Baird's Sandpipers spend the non-breeding period in western and southern regions of South America, mainly along the Pacific coast from central Peru south to Tierra de Fuego, and in the Andes (as far north as Ecuador), but also along the Atlantic coast of Argentina and Uruguay (AOU 1983; Blake 1977; Myers & Myers 1979; van Gils & Wiersma 1996). Vagrants have been recorded further west, in Hawaii and Australasia (AOU 1983; Donaldson 1981; Higgins & Davies 1996), and further east, in Iceland, western and northern Europe, and the Atlantic coasts of Africa (Senegambia and Namibia) (Cramp & Simmons 1983; Meeth 1981; Myers et al. 1982; Thráinsson 1995; Urban et al. 1986).
Baird's Sandpipers breed in northern parts of North America and migrate to South America, so the birds recorded in Australia have all been vagrants, and have presumably undertaken aberrant movements. Thus, global threats will be relevant to the few birds which have been recorded in Australia.

Most surveys of Baird's Sandpiper have been conducted on birds when on migration through Canada and the United States (e.g. Bolton & Szanto 2003), but there have also been surveys conducted at the breeding grounds (Gratto-Trevor et al. 1998).

The total population has been estimated at 50 000–100 000 birds (van Gils & Wiersma 1996), or about 300,000 birds (Birdlife International 2007). In Alaska it has been referred to as 'very common' (Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951).

Though there are no separate subspecies, Baird's Sandpiper breeds in separate populations, one in north-eastern Siberia and the other in Alaska (Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; van Gils & Wiersma 1996), but both populations presumably intermingle when on migration.

The species' population is considered to be relatively stable (Gratto-Trevor et al. 1998; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

There is no published information on extreme natural fluctuations in the population numbers.

There is no published information on the generation length.

Baird's Sandpiper is not known to hybridize with other species in the wild.

When on migration, Baird's Sandpipers travel on a wide front, and are thus widespread, and likely to be encountered in conservation reserves in various countries, states and provinces. There are, however, no conservation reserves actively managed specifically for this species.

During the non-breeding period the species mainly inhabits areas of bare mud or sand around high-altitude lakes, low vegetation in dry terrestrial habitats, including grasslands or farmland (crops, pasture), or desert coasts. They also sometimes occur in moister habitats such as irrigated paddocks, grassy marshes or saltponds, but are seldom recorded at coastal mudflats, estuaries or beaches, where they occur in the upper littoral zone (AOU 1983; Bent 1962; Blake 1977; Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Myers & Myers 1979; van Gils & Wiersma 1996). In Australia it has been recorded on sandy beaches and mudflats, at saltponds, sewage ponds and shores of lakes and lagoons (Curry 1979; McKean 1984; Milledge 1968; Smith 1987; Snell 1988). On migration, the species may occur at high-altitude lakes and grasslands, up to 4700 metres above sea level; and has been recorded on floating ice while on passage.

During the breeding season it occurs in tundra, often dominated by lichen, moss or grasses, usually in dry or exposed areas near the coast or wetlands, or atop low mountains (AOU 1983; Bent 1962; Blake 1977; Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Myers & Myers 1979; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

Feeding habitat
Baird's Sandpiper forages in the soft mud of wetlands, often above the waterline on drying mud, or occasionally near the water's edge or in shallow water, or mud or soil in short-grassy areas. It has also been seen feeding at the edge of a frozen pond and in shallow streams of snowmelt (Bent 1962; Myers & Myers 1979).

Roosting habitat
There is no published information on roosting habitat, but the species probably does not usually require daily roost sites as it seldom feeds in intertidal wetlands.

Breeding habitat
The species breeds in arctic tundra, usually in dry upland areas, dominated by lichen or tussocks, with stony ridges or patches of bare ground; they usually avoid moist areas (Bent 1962; Gratto-Trevor et al. 1998; Myers et al. 1982; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

When in Argentina it is said that "refuging [is] strongly developed" in the species (Myers & Myers 1979), but without further explanation.

The species does not rely on a listed threatened ecological community.

There is no published information on the age of sexual maturity or life expectancy. On the breeding grounds they are preyed upon by jaegers (Stercorarius spp) (Bent 1962) and probably foxes.

The species does not breed in Australia (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Baird's Sandpipers lay their eggs in June and July (Bent 1962; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; van Gils & Wiersma 1996). The nest is a shallow scrape in the soil or dry moss, lined with leaves, grass or moss, and is situated either in the open or among grass or other short vegetation. Clutches usually comprise four eggs, but sometimes three, which are incubated by both sexes for 19–21 days (Bent 1962; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; van Gils & Wiersma 1996). Chicks are precocial, and are usually tended by both parents. However, females usually depart on migration earlier than males, with females at early nests staying with the young for a few days before leaving, but females from late nests may leave when or before the eggs hatch. This leaves the male to remain with the chicks, which fledge after 19 or 20 days (Jehl 1979; Myers et al. 1982; van Gils & Wiersma 1996). Due to their ground-nesting habit and the precocial nature of the chicks, Baird's Sandpipers are vulnerable to predation by foxes and other predators on the breeding grounds.

Baird's Sandpipers mainly eat insects and their larvae, such as beetles, chironomids, craneflies, flies, grasshoppers, mosquitoes and weevils; also amphipods and spiders; and occasionally algae (Bent 1962; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).
The Baird's Sandpiper forages mainly by quickly pecking soft mud near the edge of the water or in shallow water, and very occasionally by probing (Bent 1962; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

The Baird's Sandpiper is a migratory species, breeding in the arctic and migrating to temperate, subtropical and tropical regions for the non-breeding period (Bent 1962; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

Departure from breeding grounds
Birds breeding on the Chukotski Peninsula in north-eastern Siberia migrate east across the Bering Strait to join with North American breeding birds, and then migrate south, mainly in late July, but some may remain on nesting grounds until early September. Females leave slightly earlier than males, and juveniles leave last of all (Cramp & Simmons 1983; Dement'ev & Gladkov 1951; Paulson 1983; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

Southern passage
The southern passage takes birds along an inland route, across the North American prairies east of the Rocky Mountains and west of Hudson Bay, with stopover sites in southern Canada and northern United States (in the area bounded by eastern Alberta, western Manitoba, central Colorado and central Kansas), before they rapidly migrate south, non-stop. Females usually arrive in the United States in the second week of July and have vacated North America by 20 August; males appear in late July and are gone by 20 August; and peak passage by juveniles through the United States is in the second half of August, most having left North America by the end of August, though some may still be moving through in October. Migrating adults mostly pass west of Mexico and elsewhere in Central America, or possibly overfly islands in the Caribbean Sea. Juveniles migrate on a broader front, and are more likely to be recorded in Central America. In South America, migration is centred along the Andes (Bent 1962; Blake 1977; Cramp & Simmons 1983; Jehl 1979; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

Non-breeding season
The species spends the non-breeding period in western and southern regions of South America, from central Peru south to Tierra de Fuego, mainly along the Pacific coast and in the Andes (as far north as Ecuador), but also along the Atlantic coast of Argentina and Uruguay (AOU 1983; Blake 1977; van Gils & Wiersma 1996). The first birds arrive in Peru in late July, and are thought to reach Tierra del Fuego by early September, though the earliest record in Patagonia is 12 August (Jehl 1979). Sandpipers begin to vacate the non-breeding grounds in early March (Cramp & Simmons 1983).

Northern passage
The northern passage is assumed to be the reverse of the southern passage, with birds passing northwards through inland regions of the United States and Canada in April and early May (Cramp & Simmons 1983; van Gils & Wiersma 1996).

Return to breeding grounds
Baird's Sandpipers first arrive back in the breeding grounds in late May, arriving back at more northern areas by early to mid-June (Cramp & Simmons 1983).

There are no published details of home ranges or territories in the non-breeding grounds, but they are said to defend feeding territories there (van Gils & Wiersma 1996), e.g. one defended an area of 0.03 hectares near Buenos Aires in Argentina (Myers & Myers 1979).

The Baird's Sandpiper is described as distinctive (Higgins & Davies 1996), though it may be confused with the White-rumped Sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis), which is also a vagrant to Australia. It is only superficially similar to the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata), though this similarity may be sufficient to make it difficult to detect if one was present among a large flock of foraging or roosting shorebirds.

There are no viable methods to conduct surveys of the species in Australia, as it has only been recorded as a vagrant. It is most likely to be detected during the regular, twice-yearly, high-tide surveys by the Australasian Wader Studies Group of shorebirds at regular sites.

The species has only been recorded in Australia five times, so there are no threats that are relevant to the overall population of the species here. However, with any future records of this species in Australia there is a distinct possibility of disturbance from 'twitchers' keen to see the species, as well as general threats, such as pollution and loss of habitat, which affect most species of migratory shorebirds visiting Australia.

Global warming and associated changes in sea level are likely to have a long-term impact on the breeding, staging and non-breeding grounds of migratory waders such as the Baird's Sandpiper (Harding et al. 2007).

Migratory shorebirds are also adversely affected by pollution and loss of suitable habitat, both on passage and in non-breeding areas (Harding et al. 2007).

Disturbance from human activities is likely to increase significantly in the future (Davidson & Rothwell 1993).

There have been no threat abatement or recovery actions undertaken specifically for the Baird's Sandpiper, but the species is included in the United States Shorebird Conservation Plan (Brown et al. 2001).

There are no mitigation measures that have been developed for the species.

Some major studies of the Baird's Sandpiper include: Jehl (1979), Miller and colleagues (1988), Reid and Montgomerie (1985) and Tomkovich (1996a).There is a brief summary of all that is known about Baird's Sandpiper in van Gils & Wiersma (1996).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation Calidris bairdii in Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2006dv) [Internet].

American Ornithologists Union (AOU) (1983). Check-list of North American Birds. Lawrence, Kansas: American Ornithologists Union.

Begazo, A.J. (1992). Observations of the Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus) and Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii) in Puerto Rico. El Pitirre. 5:3.

Bent, A.C. (1962). Life Histories of North American Shorebirds. New York: Dover Publications.

Birdlife International (2007). Species factsheet: Calidris bairdii. [Online]. Available from:>.

Blake, E.R. (1977). Manual of Neotropical Birds. Volume 1. Spheniscidae (Penguins) to Laridae (Gulls and Allies). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bolton, M.R. & J. Szanto (2003). Fourteen years of shorebird surveys near Western Lake Erie. Ohio Cardinal. 26:140-144.

Brown, S., C. Hickey, B. Harrington & R. Gill (2001). United States Shorebird Conservation Plan. Manomet, Massachusetts, USA: Manomet Centre for Conservation Sciences.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (1994). The Taxonomy and Species of Birds of Australia and its Territories. Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union Monograph 2. Melbourne, Victoria: Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union.

Christidis, L. & W.E. Boles (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Cramp, S. & K.E.L. Simmons, eds. (1983). Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Volume 3, Waders to Gulls. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Curry, P.J. (1979). A Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii at Eyre: a new species for Western Australia. Western Australian Naturalist. 14:137-140.

Davidson, N. & P. Rothwell (1993). Disturbance to waterfowl on estuaries. Wader Study Group Bulletin. 68.

Dement'ev, G.P. & N.A. Gladkov (Eds) (1951). Birds of the Soviet Union, Volume 3. Jerusalem: Israel Program for Scientific Translations.

Donaldson, P.V. (1981). A Baird's Sandpiper at Waipio Peninsula, Oahu, with comments on identification. Elepaio. 42:12-14.

Gratto-Trevor, C.L., V.H. Johnston & S.T. Pepper (1998). Changes in shorebird and eider abundance in the Rasmussen Lowlands, NWT. Wilson Bulletin. 110:316-325.

Harding, S.B., J.R. Wilson & D.W. Geering (2007). Threats to shorebirds and conservation actions. In: Geering, A., L. Agnew & S. Harding, eds. Shorebirds of Australia. Page(s) 197-213. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

Higgins, P.J. & S.J.J.F. Davies, eds (1996). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Three - Snipe to Pigeons. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Jehl, J.R., Jr (1979). The autumnal migration of Baird's Sandpiper. Studies in Avian Biology. 2:55-68.

McKean, J.L. (1984). A Northern Territory sighting of the Baird's Sandpiper. Australian Bird Watcher. 10:169.

Meeth, P. (1981). Baird's Sandpiper in Sénégal in December 1965. Dutch Birding. 3:51.

Milledge, D.R. (1968). The first recorded occurrence of Baird's Sandpiper, Calidris bairdii (Coues), in Australia. Emu. 68:1-5.

Miller, E.H., W.W.H. Gunn & B.N. Veprintsev (1988). Breeding vocalizations of Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii and related species, with remarks on phylogeny and adaptation. Ornis Scandinavica. 19:257-267.

Murphy, W.L. (1991). Second record of Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii) for Trinidad, with notes on its occurrence in the Caribbean basin. El Pitierre.:3-5.

Myers, J.P. & L.P. Myers (1979). Shorebirds of coastal Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. Ibis. 121:186-200.

Myers, J.P., O. Hildén & P. Tomkovich (1982). Exotic Calidris species of the Siberian Tundra. Ornis Fennica. 59:175-182.

Paulson, D.R. (1983). Fledging dates and southward migration of juveniles of some Calidris sandpipers. Condor. 85:99-101.

Reid, M.L. & R.D. Montgomerie (1985). Seasonal patterns of nest defence by Baird's Sandpipers. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 63:2207-2211.

Sibley, C.G. & B.L. Monroe (1990). Distribution and Taxonomy of the Birds of the World. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Smith, F.T.H. (1987). Baird's Sandpiper at Lake Connewarre, Victoria. Australian Bird Watcher. 12:25-27.

Snell, R.G.T. (1988). First record of Baird's Sandpiper in South Australia. South Australian Ornithologist. 30:118-119.

Thráinsson, G. (1995). The first Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii found in Iceland. Bliki. 15:52-56.

Tomkovich, P.S. (1996a). Calidris sandpipers of northeastern Siberia. Dutch Birding. 18:11-12.

Urban, E.K., C.H. Fry & S. Keith, eds. (1986). The Birds of Africa. Volume 2. Gamebirds to Pigeons. London: Academic Press.

van Gils, J. & P. Wiersma (1996). Scolopacidae (sandpipers, snipes and phalaropes) species accounts. In: del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3. Hoatzin to Auks. Page(s) 489-533. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Veit, R.R. & L. Jonsson (1984). Field identification of smaller sandpipers within the genus Calidris. American Birds. 38:853-876.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Calidris bairdii in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Thu, 18 Sep 2014 14:46:30 +1000.