Sanderling feeding in shallow water
Sanderling (Calidris alba) A long-distance migratory shorebird that requires proper food and habitat in multiple places throughout North and South America. © Flickr user Dirk-Jan van Roest (CC by 2.0)

Stories in Kansas


September 2018 Shorebird of the Month

Robert Penner stands with crossed arms, looking to his left and laughing.
Robert Penner Cheyenne Bottoms and Avian Programs Manager, Kansas


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With an estimated population of 700,000, sanderlings are one of the more common shorebirds in the world but they don't frequent Cheyenne Bottoms. I can go years without recording a single one and then the next year, there can several dozens. But even the high count here in central Kansas—222 in May 2015—is small compared to common Central Flyway migratory species like the American avocet.

Sanderlings are also incredibly widespread. They breed only in the high Arctic (Canada, Greenland, Siberia) in June and July but then disperse to beaches worldwide. They can be found along the coasts of every continent except Antarctica.

Fun Facts

Going the distance: sanderlings are one of the longest-distance migratory bird species, annually travelling as many as 15,000 miles round-trip.

Going for speed: sanderlings dart fast along the beach, swooping up invertebrates washed ashore by the waves and then hurrying away before the water comes back.

All alone: non-breeding sanderlings have been known to stay in South America year-round.


Charcoal drawing of a sanderling
Sanderling (Calidris alba) Sanderlings have a very large range, nesting in the Arctic but wintering along both the east and west coasts of most of North and South America. © Robert Penner/TNC


Sanderlings migrate between the Canadian Arctic and South American coasts through the Great Plains along the Central Flyway. Look for them in wetlands, reservoirs and playas, generally on sandy or rocky ground. 


Low/least concern. Sanderlings don't meet criteria for two primary indicators for concern—total population size and distribution of habitat. But some areas, like New England, are reporting sharp declines for sanderlings.


Uncommon migrant in both spring (mid-March to early June) and fall (August through mid-October). Look for them in mudflats with no vegetation.



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Robert Penner stands with crossed arms, looking to his left and laughing.

Rob has worked as The Nature Conservancy’s Cheyenne Bottoms Preserve Manager for 22 years, increasing habitat for migrating shorebirds and nesting grassland birds at the world-renowned wetland.

More About Robert Penner, PhD