Common Name

Scientific Name

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The solitary sandpiper, Tringa solitaria, breeds in Alaska and Canada, and winters from the Texas coast of the Gulf of Mexico to south-central Argentina. It is an uncommon migrant throughout Utah. The breeding habitat of this species is freshwater lakes and ponds in muskeg and forested areas. In other seasons, wet or muddy habitats, often at high elevation and often enclosed by trees, such as streams and woodland swamps and ponds, are utilized, but even polluted city streams, drainage ditches, and puddles of liquid manure on farms are frequented by this bird. This species eats mainly insects (both aquatic and terrestrial), but it also consumes small crustaceans, mollusks, spiders, worms, and frogs.

This sandpiper has the unusual habit of using the abandoned nests of arboreally nesting songbirds, especially nests of the American robin, rusty blackbird, eastern kingbird, gray jay, and cedar waxwing, and it has been speculated that the solitary sandpiper may even occasionally usurp active nests of these birds. The nest may be in a tree of any size and is usually three to thirty-six feet above the ground. The four eggs (rarely three or five) are incubated by both parents, but the rest of the breeding biology of this species is largely unknown. Incubation time has not yet been determined under natural conditions, but collected eggs, artificially incubated, hatch in twenty-three to twenty-four days. The young are precocial, but it is not known whether one or both parents tend them. It has been reported that the young birds leave the nest soon after hatching, seemingly dropping to the ground unaided by parents.


  • Moskoff, W. 1995. Solitary sandpiper. Birds of North America 156: 1–13.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American birds. 2nd ed. Academic, San Diego. 347 pp.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.