Visual Search | Wizard | Browse
Bird name:

Purple Sandpiper

Calidris maritima




Sandpipers (Scolopacidae)





Euring 5

iBird Ad

Breeding Location:

Tundra, Arctic regions, Heathland

Breeding Type:


Egg Colour:

Smooth, slightly glossy and pale olive to bluish-green with dark brown to purplish-grey specks, spots and blotches with more gathered on the larger end.

Number of Eggs:

3 - 4

Incubation Days:

21 - 22

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Material:

A small scrape lined with dead leaves.

Nest Location:

In the open on tundra moss, in hummocky tundra close among plants and shrubs, or in rocky or pebbled areas between cliffs.




Purple Sandpiper: Chunky, starling-sized wader. Upperparts dark grey mottled red-brown, black, white, and pale brown. Black streaks on red-brown crown, and pale brown and dark grey face. Broken, white eye ring. White underparts with grey mottling on breast and grey spotting on belly and vent. Sexes similar. Winter adults have dark grey upperparts with some black and white markings, orange-yellow bill with black tip, and orange-yellow legs. Juveniles like summer adults but more black streaking and white edging to wing feathers.

Range and Habitat

Purple Sandpiper: Winter visitor and scarce breeder in the UK. Breeding birds are found only in Scotland at secret locations; wintering birds from the Arctic are found at rocky coastlines in Scotland, northern Wales, northern and eastern England and the Cornish coast. Look for birds on rocks feeding at tide edges.

Breeding and Nesting

Purple Sandpiper: Male prepares several scrapes in open areas; female chooses one for nest. Nest is a deep hollow or small cup on the ground, often lined with willow leaves. Male is primarily responsible for incubation; female may leave before eggs hatch. Male cares for nestlings for 3 to 4 weeks.

Foraging and Feeding

Purple Sandpiper: While foraging on rocks near the tidal edge, they mainly eat small crustaceans and mollusks such as periwinkles. Feeds on marine snails, insects like spiders, and some plant material as well.


Purple Sandpiper: Usual call is loud "wit."

Similar Species

Purple Sandpiper: Dunlin has a slightly down-curved bill, dark legs, whiter underwings and is smaller and paler. Little Stint has dark legs, a shorter bill, and is smaller.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
Eye ringX
The circle around the eye formed of feathers that are a different color from the rest of the face.
The front part of the head consisting of the bill, eyes, cheeks and chin.
Birds do not have two separate cavities for excrement and reproduction like humans do. In birds, there is one single entrance/exit that suits both functions called the vent, cloaca or anus.
4 and 6 letter alpha codesX

The four letter common name alpha code is is derived from the first two letters of the common first name and the first two letters of common last name. The six letter species name alpha code is derived from the first three letters of the scientific name (genus) and the first three letters of the scientific name (species). See (1) below for the rules used to create the codes..

Four-letter (for English common names) and six-letter (for scientific names) species alpha codes were developed by Pyle and DeSante (2003, North American Bird-Bander 28:64-79) to reflect A.O.U. taxonomy and nomenclature (A.O.U. 1998) as modified by Supplements 42 (Auk 117:847-858, 2000) and 43 (Auk 119:897-906, 2002). The list has been updated by Pyle and DeSante to reflect changes reported by the A.O.U from 2003 through 2006.


The Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) was established in the mid-1990 s as a cooperative project among several federal agencies to improve and expand upon taxonomic data (known as the NODC Taxonomic Code) maintained by the National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

To find the ITIS page for a bird species go to the ITIS web site advanced search and report page at You can enter the TSN or the common name of the bird. It will return the ITIS page for that bird. Another way to obtain the ITIS page is to use the Google search engine. Enter the string ITIS followed by the taxonomic ID, for example "ITIS 178041" will return the page for the Allen's Hummingbird.

Parts of a Standing birdX
Head Feathers and MarkingsX
Parts of a Flying birdX