September 2018 Shorebird of the Month
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.
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.
HABITAT & RANGE
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.
CHEYENNE BOTTOMS AREA STATUS
Uncommon migrant in both spring (mid-March to early June) and fall (August through mid-October). Look for them in mudflats with no vegetation.