Calidris alba

What do they look like?

Sanderlings are a small sandpiper species. It is a plump-looking bird with a mottled, chestnut coloured back and white belly in summer. We are most likely to see them in winter, however, when its chestnut plumage turns silvery grey, with a dark mark usually visible at the shoulder of each wing. A sanderling's bill is black and straight, and its legs are also black.

When can I see them in Scotland?

Sanderlings can be seen between August and May. Sanderlings visit during the winter but can also be seen during their migration in autumn and spring.

Where can I see them in Scotland?

Sanderlings can be found throughout Scotland but avoid rocky shorelines and prefer sandy beaches. You can watch them scurrying up and down the tideline searching for worms, molluscs and crustaceans.

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. Sanderlings are currently an ‘Amber’ listed species.

24-27 days
16-18 days
7 years
Average Lifespan

A Sanderling in winter plumage balances on a muddy prominence by the seashore
© Brian Lasenby, Shutterstock