Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitarcia)

Photo by Travis Mahan Solitary Sandpiper by Travis Mahan


Population Information

There are currently no broad-scale projects designed to identify population size or monitor changes within shorebird populations (Brown et al. 2001). The North American population estimate is 150,000 (Morrison et al. 2006).

Life History

Habitat Selection

The Solitary Sandpiper uses freshwater habitats in all phases of its annual cycle and generally avoids saltwater habitats. It breeds in muskeg bogs and coniferous forest stands within the boreal forest zone and is one of only a few shorebird species to routinely nest in trees. In Wisconsin it is a fairly common migrant and occurs along margins of wooded lakes and ponds, shallow marshes, stream banks, and wooded swamps (Robbins 1991, Moskoff 1995). There is a paucity of information concerning the specific stopover habitat preferences of this species but general needs are likely similar to those of other shorebirds, i.e., shallow water interspersed with sparsely vegetated mudflat areas, undisturbed resting areas, and abundant invertebrate food resources (Colwell and Oring 1988, Davis and Smith 1998, Szalay et al. 2000). Migrant shorebirds are largely dependent on chironomid midge larvae and other invertebrates during migration, and the combination of shallow water and mudflats provides good conditions for these larvae and invertebrates to develop (Eldridge et al. 1992).

Habitat Availability

Unlike some shorebird species, Solitary Sandpipers are widely dispersed during migration and sometimes occur in habitats not utilized by other shorebirds. Nevertheless, foraging habitats used by this species are susceptible to similar threats, including the loss of wetlands, tiling and draining of agricultural fields, and dredging and diking of rivers. Prior to Euro-American settlement, wetlands occupied an estimated four million hectares of the total fourteen million hectares of Wisconsin’s land area. Today, 53% (2.1 million hectares) of these wetland habitats remain (WDNR 2003) and conditions at these sites can be extremely variable and highly dependent on precipitation and hydrology patterns (Szalay et al. 2000). Furthermore, exotic species (e.g., purple loosestrife, zebra mussel, carp) and industrial effluents have the potential to reduce invertebrate food resources at these sites (WDNR 2005). Man-made impoundments, such as sewage ponds and stock ponds, often provide stable food resources as do wildlife refuges and other state protected lands.

Population Concerns

In general, there is a dearth of information on this species and no broad-scale projects currently exist that identify population size or monitor population changes within its population. Morrison et al. (2006) estimated 150,000 as the North American population of Solitary Sandpiper with a negative population trend suspected (USSCP 2004). In general, population trend data are inconclusive and confounded by this species’ use of remote breeding grounds and its low densities dispersed over many migratory stopover sites (Brown et al. 2001, Morrison et al. 2001). Factors limiting Solitary Sandpipers are unknown (Brown et al. 2001), although timber harvest within the boreal forest may limit available breeding habitat (Moskoff 1995).

Recommended Management

The continuation of wetland management, protection, and restoration efforts such as the Wetlands Reserve Program, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, and North American Wetland Conservation Act will benefit this and other waterbird species. Wetland restoration efforts should create complexes of seasonal and semipermanent wetlands within areas that will increase overall wetland connectivity. Preventing habitat destruction and minimizing factors that compromise the maintenance of invertebrate populations also are important management considerations (Knapp 2001). Management actions (e.g., disking and flooding, control of invasive wetland plants, periodic, slow drawdowns) that create mosaics of mudflats and shallow water areas will provide foraging habitat for Solitary Sandpiper and other migrant shorebirds (Eldridge 1992). Managed wetland drawdowns should coincide with shorebird migration but should be staggered across units to extend habitat and food resource availability throughout the entire migratory period (Helmers 1992).

Research Needs

Although research needs for the Solitary Sandpiper and most other shorebird species are significant, of primary importance is the identification of population limiting factors. This information is essential to better understand which factors need to be changed to increase shorebird populations. Improved survey methods and an institutional capacity for monitoring shorebirds also are urgently needed (Brown et al. 2001). A state assessment of the distribution, abundance, conditions, and ownership of wetlands and other important shorebird habitats also would further management efforts and guide future restoration projects (Szalay et al. 2000). More information on the dynamics of migration patterns is warranted, including how populations move among sites and why (Brown et al. 2001). In Wisconsin, comparative studies on the feeding ecologies of migrant shorebirds would help determine how coexisting species and their prey react to different wetland management regimes and habitat conditions. Color-banding individuals at stopover sites may help to determine length of stay, refueling capacity, impacts of disturbance, and important habitat features associated with these sites (Davis and Smith 1998, Szalay et al. 2000, Brown et al. 2001). Finally, studies on almost all aspects of Solitary Sandpiper breeding biology are warranted (Moskoff 1995).
Information Sources


Contact Information

Kreitinger, K., Y. Steele and A. Paulios, editors. 2013.
The Wisconsin All-bird Conservation Plan, Version 2.0. Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Madison, WI.

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