Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Key facts

Scientific name: Actitis hypoleucos
Status: Resident breeding species and passage migrant

Breeding birds: 15,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 73 birds

Conservation status: Amber

Bird family: Sandpipers & allies

Length: 19 – 21 cm
Wingspan: 38 – 42 cm
Weight: 34 – 84 g


Adult common sandpipers have greenish-brown upperparts with dark streaks including on the crown, nape and neck. The underparts are white streaked with brown and the cheeks and breast are light brown.

Common sandpipers have white wingbars and white tips on the secondaries and inner primaries. They have a conspicuous white eyering and a dark eye stripe. The dark brown bill is up to 28 mm long. Their eyes are dark brown and legs and feet are greenish or yellow-brown. Females are similar but smaller than the male.

Juvenile and non-breeding adult common sandpipers have less streaks and olive-brown upperparts.


Common sandpipers build their nests in scattered pairs about 60-70 metres apart near water. The nest is a shallow depression in the ground lined with leaves and other plant matter.

Common sandpipers lay 3-5 yellowish-brown eggs with dark marks. Both adults incubate the eggs for 21 days. Both parents raise the chicks, although the female usually leaves before they fledge at 22-28 days with the male to do most of the rearing.

The chicks will leave the nest as soon as they are dry after hatching, hiding in surrounding vegetation.


Common sandpipers feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects as well as spiders, molluscs, crustaceans, worms and sometimes small fish, frogs and tadpoles.

They forage in shallow water or muddy, stony ground and sometimes on grassland or along roads.

Common Sandpiper

Where to see them

During the summer sandpipers breed in the north of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They can be found near fast flowing rivers, lakes, lochs and reservoirs.

During winter they can be found along the south coast while on the spring and autumn migratory passage they can be seen in other parts of the UK.


Albert Lastukhin/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Common sandpipers walk about bobbing their heads and flicking their tails, movements which they exaggerate when they are alarmed.

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