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Here and there along winter shorelines, little flocks of pale, silvery shorebirds probe at the water's edge, keeping pace with each wave's ebb and flow. These are Sanderlings, small sandpipers that stay through the winter. Rachel Carson, in Under the Sea Wind, described Sanderlings as running "with a twinkle of black feet." Learn more about the Sanderling at Audubon's online Guide to North American Birds.
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Sound of gentle waves and sharp call notes of a flock of Sanderlings]
Here and there along winter shorelines, both on the Pacific and Atlantic, little flocks of pale, silvery shorebirds probe at the water’s edge, keeping pace with each wave’s ebb and flow. These small sandpipers are called Sanderlings. [Sound of gentle waves and sharp call notes of a flock of Sanderlings]
Rachel Carson, whose book Under the Sea Wind set a high standard for nature writing, described Sanderlings as running “with a twinkle of black feet.” Carson depicted Sanderlings’ foraging along the beach as “keeping in the thin film at the edge of the ebbing surf . . . where puffs of blown spume or sea froth rolled like thistle down.”
Sanderlings also winter in the Hawaiian Islands. In the native language, they are known as hunakai, or “sea foam,” an apt description of the sandpipers’ pale winter plumage and their nimble dance with the waves.[Sound of gentle waves and sharp call notes of a flock of Sanderlings]
In the warmer months, Sanderlings nest in the extreme north, most north of the Arctic Circle, in remote sites in Canada, Greenland, and Siberia. In winter, however, they spread out as far as any bird in the world. Their silvery flocks are sprinkled along beaches throughout the temperate and tropic zones, on six of the seven continents.
For BirdNote, I’m Mary McCann. [Sound of gentle waves and sharp call notes of a flock of Sanderlings]
Call of the Sanderlings provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Recorded by R.S. Little
Ocean waves provided by Kessler Productions
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org February 2012/2018/2021 December 2023
Narrator: Mary McCann