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Fighting Western Sandpipers

On the Washington Coast early one May, photographer Gregg Thompson witnessed a couple of Western Sandpipers fighting, well away from their Arctic breeding grounds. Western Sandpipers are aggressively territorial, more so than any of the dozen species of related shorebirds that also breed in Alaska. 

From Birds of North America Online:Sandpipers fighting 1 Most fights occur [are] between two males who charge each other from crouched postures. The birds then flutter into the air, to a height of several meters. As they rise, they use their wings to slap at each other, and jab with their bills. Their feet are held up and directed toward the opponent. Feathers are often torn loose. Both birds then land, engage each other again and repeat the charge and fluttering fighting. 

Usually these fights last only a few seconds. Gregg caught this exciting sequence on camera!sandpipers fighting 2

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Listen to BirdNote shows about Western Sandpipers:
Chorus Line in the Sky
How Young Birds Migrate
Experience Wildness with Adrian Dorst
Counting Shorebirds for the Avian Knowledge Network

All photos © Gregg Thompson

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