Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

Flight action of the Common Sandpiper is very unique: with a close flight path over water, it alternates between a series of shallow pulsating wing beats and fleeting glides with stiffly down-bowed wings. While sitting on a stone, the Common Sandpiper continually bobs and pumps its tail, similar to a wagtail.

Body length from 19 to 24cm; wingspan from 35 to 40cm; weight varies between 40 and 55g. Mature individuals have greenish-grey-brown upperparts with fine wave pattern. White underparts, extending up to a pointed white wedge between the wing and the dark breast band. In flight a distinctive white wing band can be discerned. Juveniles are similar in colouring to adults, yet may be differentiated by their more obvious barring above and brighter feather tips. When taking flight or when disturbed, the Common Sandpiper may emit a bright and penetrating call. The male offers his partner several open shallow nests on the ground which are well hidden from sight by thick vegetation. Nesting is near sandy, pebble-filled river banks or lakes with thick vegetation. The female selects one of the nests, fills it with a few blades of grass and leaves and lays (between April and July) four shiny, speckled (reddish-brown) buff eggs. After approximately 21 days in which both parents share incubation duties, the chicks are hatched. When danger lurks the male will attack the intruder with loud calls while the female escorts the chicks to safety in the brush. After around 30 days the young are independent. One brood per year. The Common Sandpiper is a rare breeding bird in the Donau-Auen National Park.

The Common Sandpiper is native to all of Europe and Asia's temperate zones. The birds winter in Southern Europe and Africa, although some may remain in north-western Europe.

Endangerment and Conservation Status
This rare bird is a protected animal. In parts of Austria, it is already potentially endangered to critically endangered.

The Common Sandpiper prefers sandy and gravelly shores of rivers and lakes but also rocky coastal areas. It may also be spotted in waters in mountainous areas, even up to altitudes of 4000m above sea level. Because it avoids muddy banks, it is rarely seen around stagnant waters. The Common Sandpiper feeds on tadpoles, worms, insects, molluscs, crustaceans and spiders.

Special Characteristics
The Actitis hypoleucos arrives with its partner at the beginning of the breeding season and begins to occupy its territory immediately.


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