OREGON — The sanderling is one of the very few birds that can be spotted along the Lake Erie shoreline. The birds can be seen running along the beach close to the water, probing for small invertebrates and small crabs that the waves have left. The sanderling often runs in sync with the waves.
Other than seeing them in the winter months in the Atlantic coast states of Virginia and further south and the gulf coast states including Texas, a good place to see the sanderling in northwest Ohio is on the Maumee Bay shoreline. The sanderling is most likely to be spotted in July and August and late May to early June.
The birds can be seen running along the beach close to the water, probing for small invertebrates and small crabs that the waves have left. The sanderling often runs in sync with the waves.
Other birds, like plovers and the ruddy turnstone may occasionally be found feeding nearby, but the sanderling is known to aggressively defend and chase off other types of shorebirds in its feeding territory.
In its summer breeding plumage, the sanderling’s face, throat and back are brick red in color and is white underneath. In winter plumage, the sanderling is gray above and white below, with a black, stout bill and black legs. When flying, a strong white wingbar is seen. The bird itself is a medium sized sandpiper, about eight inches in length and with a wingspan of 17 inches.
The sanderling can be a long distant migrant. It breeds way up in the Arctic tundra. On its way back north, along the coastline, the sanderling is known to consume large numbers of horseshoe crab eggs. When nesting, the sanderling feeds on plant material and insects. In winter, some North American sanderlings migrate to South America. The bird can be found all over the world in winter, in places like Africa, southern Europe and Australia. Because of the bird’s world wide appearances, it is part of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds.
In winter, the sanderling can be seen feeding in large flocks. In the summer, it feeds in numbers from an individual to a group of 10. When seen at Maumee Bay in either the summer or spring, just like in the above summer numbers, the sanderling is found between the one individual, to a group of 10.
While the sanderling has experienced a decline in numbers over the past two decades, it is still doing well enough to be listed under the “Least Concern” category.