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

Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

The Least Sandpiper is the smallest shorebird.

This species has greenish legs and a short, thin, dark bill. Breeding adults are brown with dark brown streaks on top and white underneath. They have a light line above the eye and a dark crown. In winter, Least Sandpipers are grey above. The juveniles are brightly patterned above with rufus coloration and white mantle stripes.

This bird can be difficult to distinguish from other similar tiny shorebirds; these are known collectively as “peeps” or “stints”. In particular, Least Sandpiper is very similar to its Asian counterpart, Long-toed Stint. It differs from that species in its more compact, shorter-necked appearance, shorter toes, somewhat duller colors, and stronger wing bar.

Their breeding habitat is the northern North American continent on tundra or in bogs. They nest on the ground near water. The female lays 4 eggs in a shallow scrape lined with grass and moss. Both parents incubate; the female leaves before the young birds fledge and sometimes before the eggs hatch. The young birds feed themselves and are able to fly within two weeks of birth.

They migrate in flocks to the southern United States and northern South America. They occur as very rare vagrants in western Europe.

These birds forage on mudflats, picking up food by sight, sometimes by probing. They mainly eat small crustaceans, insects and snails.

On to my photos:

Least sandpiper


Least sandpiper


Least sandpiper


Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla


Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla


Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla



Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla

Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla


This is number 131 in my photo life list, only 219 to go!

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



10 responses

  1. I’d say they’re not just difficult to distinguish, but impossible. And like so many small birds, move way too fast. Great shots of this tiny guy.

    November 6, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    • Thanks, I would never be able to ID the shorebirds looking at them in real life, I had to study the photos for hours to learn which were which.

      November 7, 2013 at 2:51 am

  2. Very nice pictures.

    November 6, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    • Thanks Tom, but I’m going to have to step it up a notch or two in order to match the improvement in your photos of late.

      November 7, 2013 at 2:50 am

  3. Great shots! This is the same bird that I saw at a local pond back in September, I think it was. Identifying it was a nightmare!

    November 7, 2013 at 6:23 am

    • Thanks, I think you can imagine how much hair pulling happened when I came home with 400 photos of about twenty different species of “peeps” as they are known, thinking that they all looked the same. But, they don’t really, the least in this post are tiny, have greenish legs and a black bill. The only other peep close to them in size is a Baird’s sandpiper, and they have black legs.

      November 7, 2013 at 8:12 am

  4. Wonderful photos!

    November 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    • Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, glad that you liked it.

      November 8, 2013 at 1:46 am

  5. These little peeps always elude with me ID’s. Particularly during non-breeding season. Great post!

    November 21, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    • Thanks, we had them by the hundreds back in August and September, and were rather easy to get. They are the smallest peeps, the only others close to being that small are the Baird’s, which there were also dozens of. My biggest problem was getting shots of solo birds.

      November 22, 2013 at 2:28 am