The Sanderling is a small, plump, energetic wading bird. It has a short straight black bill and medium length black legs. It is pale grey above and white underneath, and there is a black mark at its shoulder where the folded wing meets the body. It does not breed in the UK, but is a winter visitor and passage migrant in spring and autumn, journeying to and from their high Arctic breeding grounds.
Key ID Features
In summer adults have marbled chestnut and black back, head and breast with white under parts.
In winter it stands out from other small waders due to its very bright white under parts contrasting with the grey and black mottled back, jet black legs and straight bill.
Broad white wing bars on dark upper wings either side of the pale grey back are visible in the winter adult's flight.
Autumn juveniles have grey backs with black spangling and buff markings on the breast.
Scientific name: Calidris alba
Family: Sandpipers and allies (Scolopacidae)
Where to see them:
Best looked for where there are long, sandy beaches, around most of the coast other than in the south-west and the rocky coasts of mainland Scotland.
Seen in UK:
All year round.
What they eat
Small marine worms, crustaceans and molluscs.
Text (c) RSPB, used with permission
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Photographer: Tim Tapley