Fall Shorebirds of Seapoint


Least Sandpiper

Semipalmated Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plover

Baird's Sandpiper

White-rumped Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper



• Pectoral Sandpiper

• Purple Sandpiper

• Ruddy Turnstone

• Killdeer

• Black-bellied Plover

• Greater Yellowlegs

• Quiz


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Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla)

Relatively small, 6.5" length. First adults in breeding plumage 8/8, first juveniles 8/15. The most abundant shorebird late August through mid-September with juveniles eventually replacing adults in abundance. Last juvenile 10/17, last adult 10/29. Late September and October adults seen beginning their molt into grey nonbreeding plumage. Full nonbreeding plumage not seen.

Of all the peeps I found it helpful to learn this bird early, in part because Semipalmated juveniles are the most indistinct and at the same time most numerous of the Calidris sandpipers when the big flocks are moving through. Becoming familiar with both adult and juvenile plumages makes it easier for the less common sandpipers like the White-rumped or Baird's to stand out in the crowd when scanned quickly, rather than having to check every bird, if that were even possible.

Here are the key fieldmarks for juveniles.

Now for a front and back look at 2 juveniles, note the very faint gold band across the breast of the forward facing bird, and that you can't really see any streaks in the middle. Then there's the strongly patterned back and wing feathering. The plumage on these birds is fresher, not as worn, as the key bird above.

Now here's an adult in worn breeding plumage, altogether much scruffier looking and with a more streaky face and breast, and note that the wing feathers aren't all edged in white, each feather being more of one solid color. You can also see a few indistinct spots and streaks along the flanks under the wings, which you don't see in the juveniles.

Now here's a shot with both. The juvee in the back has softer and more golden face and breast, more like a blush, while the adult in front has a more speckled and streaked face and breast.

Later in the season (October) after the big flocks have moved through, adults beginning their molt become more frequent. Below note the greyer feathering starting to replace the browns. Eventually the bird will apear mostly all grey until taking on breeding plumage again in the spring molt, but we don't see the full winter (nonbreeding) plumage at Seapoint.

Here's a shot in a crowd of mixed shorebirds where juvenile Semipalmated Sandpipers are indicated by the yellow arrows, outnumbering everything else.

Here's a Semipalmated Plover alongside a Semipalmated Sandpiper. The term semipalmated refers to partially webbed feet common to both species. Plovers are shorebirds but not sandpipers.

This shot compares a juvee Semipalmated Sandpiper with a juvenile Sanderling. Both birds have pale coloring and both lack distinctly streaked breasts, but the Sanderling is more contrasting dark and white as well as being considerably larger.

And finally, here's a small group of shorebirds in flight with juvee Semipalmated Sandpipers indicated by the yellow arrows.

Next > Semipalmated Plover

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