My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularia

Spotted Sandpiper, Actitis macularia, a bird species that I know almost nothing about, other than that they are small wading birds. So I am going to have to rely on Wikipedia again for information.

“The Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius syn. Actitis macularia) is a small shorebird, 18–20 cm long. Together with its sister species, the Common Sandpiper (A. hypoleucos) they make up the genus Actitis. They replace each other geographically; stray birds may settle down with breeders of the other species and hybridize.

Their breeding habitat is near fresh water across most of Canada and the United States. They migrate to the southern United States and South America, and are very rare vagrants to western Europe. These are not gregarious birds and are seldom seen in flocks.

Adults have short yellowish legs and an orange bill with a dark tip. The body is brown on top and white underneath with black spots. Non-breeding birds, depicted below, do not have the spotted underparts, and are very similar to the Common Sandpiper of Eurasia; the main difference is the more washed-out wing pattern visible in flight and the normally light yellow legs and feet of the Spotted Sandpiper. The Actitis species have a distinctive stiff-winged flight low over the water.

Spotted Sandpipers nest on the ground. During each summer breeding season, females may mate with and lay clutches for more than one male, leaving incubation to them. This is called polyandry. Male parents of first clutches may father chicks in later male’s clutches, probably due to sperm storage within female reproductive tracts, which is common in birds. Females that fail to find additional mates usually help incubate and rear chicks. “Prior to incubation, blood plasma concentrations of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone are substantially higher in males than in females” and these levels plummet 25-fold in males as incubation proceeds. Additionally, mated females have testosterone concentrations that are 7 times higher than those of unmated females.

These birds forage on ground or water, picking up food by sight. They may also catch insects in flight. They eat insects, crustaceans and other invertebrates. As they forage, they can be recognized by their constant nodding and teetering.”

On to the photos:

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

There’s an interesting story behind the rest of these photos. As I was doing my daily walk, and approaching one of the ponds, I heard the alarm cry of a bird. I looked up to see the following sandpiper dodging the attack of a cooper’s hawk, sorry, no photos, I wasn’t quick enough. But, the hawk spotted me and darted off into the brush, while the sandpiper flew straight at me, and landed on a mass of floating vegetation very close to me. I can’t prove it of course, but I think that the sandpiper was using my presence as a shield of sorts, to ward off any further attempts by the hawk. The floating vegetation couldn’t support the weight of the sandpiper, as you can see, it had to flap its wings to remain afloat, it made for a great photo-op.

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper

Juvenile spotted sandpiper in flight

Juvenile spotted sandpiper in flight

Juvenile spotted sandpiper in flight

Juvenile spotted sandpiper in flight

This is number 23 in my photo life list, only 327 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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6 responses

  1. you might not know much about this bird, but you’ve sure got some great photos of him.

    February 9, 2013 at 7:40 am

    • Thanks Allen!

      February 9, 2013 at 10:10 am

  2. Vicki

    thank you for sharing this very special moment.

    February 9, 2013 at 10:48 am

    • Thank you Vicki!

      February 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

  3. This little one is just too cute ! Love how you were able to capture him in motion.

    February 10, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    • Thanks, I had a few other photos showing one hopping over rocks, but I lost them, and the photos of nuthatches I was going to post.

      February 10, 2013 at 11:50 pm