Least Sandpiper

Scientific name: Calidris minutilla
Classification: Shorebird
Size: Length - about 5 to 6 ½ inches



The smallest of American shorebirds with streaked brownish plumage above and on the breast, white below, and a white line above the eye, most obvious in the winter. Black line on rump extends onto tail. The legs are yellowish and the bill is short, thin, and slightly decurved.



Least sandpipers are found in a variety of habitats including grassy marsh areas, mudflats, rain pools, ponds, lakes, shores, mossy or wet grassy tundra, wet meadows, flooded fields, and some drier areas with scattered vegetation.

The range extends from northern north America in the breeding season to south America in the winter.


Natural history:

Least sandpipers are long distance migrants and travel mainly at night. During the non-breeding season they are generally seen in small groups or singly and then are found in pairs from late winter through most of the breeding season. By the end of the breeding season in late summer, separate groups of adults and fledglings are formed.


Food habits:

Least sandpipers forage on the surface of water, mud, or ground and by probing in mud with their bills for food items such as small insects, crustaceans, mollusks, worms, and some plant matter.



A clutch of about 4 eggs is laid in May to June. Incubation is done mainly by the male, also by the female at night, and lasts 19 to 22 days. Males care for the young for about the first 3 weeks while the female stays for only about 1 week. Chicks are able to fly at about 2 weeks old. Often, several families congregate together after hatching of chicks.



Least sandpipers are given a global heritage status rank of g5, generally defined as “common and widespread, may be rare in portions of the range, but not vulnerable in most of the range”. They receive federal protection from the migratory bird treaty act.


Fun facts:

  • Least sandpipers are the smallest American sandpipers.
  • Least sandpipers are sometimes called “peeps”, along with other common, streaked, small, North American sandpipers like the semipalmated sandpiper and the western sandpiper.