Purple Sandpiper

Calidris maritima

What do they look like?

Purple sandpipers are medium sized waders with grey bodies, light bellies, and dark streaks. In the summer, they are browner compared to their darker grey appearance in winter. When in flight they have a distinct white line on their wings and their tails are black with white sides. Their bills are dark and curve downwards. They have dull yellow-orange legs.

When can I see them in Scotland?

You can spot purple sandpipers most of the year. They are (mainly) winter visitors but only leave to breed between May and July, journeying north to places such as Scandinavia and Greenland.

Where can I see them in Scotland?

Purple sandpipers prefer rocky shores covered with seaweed and are commonly spotted foraging with flocks of turnstones (Arenaria interpres). You can see them on Orkney, Shetland and Scotland’s east coast.

Conservation status

In the UK, bird species with breeding, passage or wintering populations are assessed by experts and assigned to Red, Amber or Green lists of conservation concern. Purple sandpipers are currently a ‘Red’ listed species.

21-22 days
15-28 days
6 years
Average Lifespan

Purple Sandpiper on a rock encrusted with yellow lichens, viewed from above
© Susan Davies

Purple Sandpiper on a rocky shore amongst seaweed
© Michal Wolowik