Scolopacidae – Sandpipers & allies

Birds of this family will put even the best dancers to shame

A diverse family of birds commonly known as sandpipers, snipes, godwits, curlews, and phalaropes. This family encompasses a wide range of species that are found in various habitats around the world, including wetlands, mudflats, beaches, and grasslands.

One of the characteristic features of birds in the Scolopacidae family is their distinctive bobbing walk, which is often observed as they forage along the water’s edge or in muddy flats. Additionally, their flight is characterized by a flickering motion, and many species exhibit a prominent white ‘pea’ or patch on the wing, which can be seen during flight.

These waders are typically found in a wide range of interior and coastal wetland habitats, including marshes, swamps, lakeshores, riversides, and estuaries. While they are commonly associated with wetlands, they tend to avoid exposed tidal mudflats, preferring more sheltered and vegetated areas for foraging and nesting.

Most members of the Scolopacidae family are migratory birds, undertaking long-distance journeys between their breeding and wintering grounds. Their migration routes often span vast distances, crossing deserts, mountains, and other challenging landscapes. Despite being solitary foragers, they often gather in large flocks at night roosts, including congregating on moored boats, providing a remarkable spectacle for birdwatchers.

Breeding habitats for Scolopacidae species vary, with many nesting in highland environments near running rivers and streams. They typically construct their nests on sand or rock-lined edges, in dry meadows surrounding ponds and lakes, and along protected coastal coastlines.

The ecological significance of Scolopacidae birds extends beyond their role as indicators of wetland health. They play crucial roles in ecosystem dynamics, controlling insect populations, aerating soils, and serving as prey for larger predators.