Monday, August 11, 2014 Spotted Sandpiper migration

Seward, Alaska

Scattered individual SPOTTED SANDPIPERS are on the move these past few weeks, migrating through the Seward area, stopping at every beach to fatten up for the next leg of their journey down the Pacific coast to as far as South America. The females leave the breeding sites before the males, and return in the spring ahead of the males and younger females.

It's been tricky to get a good photo as they are wary and quick to fly farther down the beach with their characteristic stiff-winged flutter and glide. I was lucky today to watch one bird flutter-glide across the Lagoon in town heading directly for my waiting camera. It landed not far away at the edge of the water and began its incessant bobbing and teetering as it picked through the invertebrates at the water's edge.

At this time of year, there are no spots on a Spotted Sandpiper, but the diagnostic white notch in front of the wing persists.

Like the Phalaropes, the larger, dominant female arrives first, choses her territory and displays to attract a male. She lays 4 eggs in the nest and then may leave the dad to incubate the eggs while she goes off to find another mate, a breeding practice called polyandry. She may breed with up to four males in temperate regions, but probably has fewer nests farther north. Some populations are monogamous and the pair will both incubate and take care of the young before she migrates south.

There is a lot of fishing activity along the beaches now during the Silver Salmon Derby but the Lagoon is a good place to look for this interesting shorebird, especially on the north end from the boardwalk.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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