Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) by Larry Jordan (click on photos for full sized images)
Well it’s not unheard of but pretty rare to see Pectoral Sandpipers in Shasta County. You see the Pectoral Sandpiper is a medium-sized sandpiper that breeds on wet tundra in both the North American and Siberian Arctic and winters mostly in southern South America1. I know range maps basically show the “average” or “normal” range of species but notice that this map shows pretty much nothing west of the Rockies in the U.S.
You would probably also notice that this looks like it would be a long migration from breeding grounds to wintering habitat for this bird and you would be correct. The Pectoral Sandpiper travels over 18,000 miles from its breeding grounds to its wintering habitat and back. A distance similar to that flown by the Arctic Tern.
According to the local listserv, Shasta Birders, there were six of these beauties seen in a horse pasture across from Lone Tree Pond, a local known birding spot. You can find a local listserv at the American Birding Association website here.
Since this would be a life bird for me, I decided I should check it out. I found five.
During migration Pectoral Sandpipers usually feed along edges of ponds or on algal mats away from the water’s edge, among vegetation. They are often found with other shorebirds like these much smaller Least Sandpipers (Calidris minutilla)…
or these much larger Long-billed Dowitchers (Limnodromus scolopaceus).
As a bonus, there were several Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) playing hide and seek in the vegetation along the edges of the pasture.
Here is a video I shot with the Pectoral Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers foraging together.
References:1Birds of North America Online