Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)

Upland SandpiperUpland Sandpiper distribution map


Population Information

The Federal BBS information can be obtained at http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/bbs.html by clicking on Trend Estimates and selecting the species in question. All estimates are for time period (1966-2005).

Life History

Habitat Selection

Upland Sandpipers prefer dry grasslands with low to moderate forb cover, low woody cover, moderate amounts of residual vegetation and litter, and little bare ground (Sample and Mossman 1997). Vegetation is usually 4-16 inches high and avoids tall dense vegetation (Houston 2001). Commonly used habitats in Wisconsin include lightly grazed pastures, old fields, idle grasslands, barrens, large dry forest clearcuts, dry prairie, and hay fields. Loafing and brood-rearing habitats include heavily grazed pasture, hayfields, fallow fields, and row crops (Sample and Mossman 1997).

Upland Sandpipers are highly area-sensitive requiring grassland patch sizes >30 ha in size (DeChant et al. 2003). Densities of Upland Sandpipers were positively correlated with patch area and inversely correlated with perimeter:area ratios (DeChant et al. 2003).

Habitat Availability

Barrens, idle grasslands, old fields, fallow fields, and pastures large enough to attract Upland Sandpipers (UPSA) are rare and subject to fragmentation, especially on private agricultural lands that UPSA is attracted to (Sample and Mossman 1997). Conversion of pasture and fallow fields to row crops and the growth of trees in fence lines has lowered the available habitat on private lands. With the UPSA’s preference for large habitat areas (>100 ac), few to no shrubs, and shorter vegetation height (< 3 ft) public lands managed for medium to large scale upland grasslands, such as Crex Meadows, Liberty Grove Grasslands, Yellowstone/Pecatonica River Grasslands and Savannas, and the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area are the most suitable habitat for harboring a viable population of UPSAs (Sample & Mossman 1997).

Population Concerns

The UPSA was once a common breeder in the continental US, Canada, and Alaska. Market hunting, egg collecting, and its use as target practice in the nineteenth and early twentieth century coupled with the loss of suitable habitat has brought a significant decline to this species outside the Great Plains (Houston 2001). Fragmentation of large blocks of grassland and conversion of pastures and fallow fields to row crops has limited the suitable habitat for the UPSA.

Population declines in Wisconsin are some of the largest of any portion of this species’ range. Declines in Wisconsin are largely due to the loss and intensification of agricultural grasslands. Without large blocks of idle and/or grazed grasslands the UPSA may disappear from Wisconsin (Sample 2002).

Recommended Management

Grassland/barrens restorations and management should focus on large blocks of habitat (>100ha) as UPSA densities have been shown to correlate with patch size (DeChant et al. 2003). Blocks of grassland should be within 1.6km of each other and be contiguous with other grassy habitats (DeChant et al. 2003).

Site-level management for UPSA should provide short-medium height vegetation with moderate amounts of litter, residual vegetation, and grass:forb ratio (Sample and Mossman 1997). Patches of trees or wooded fencelines should be removed to provide necessary open space. Larger grassland units should provide a range of successional stages or ag types to provide both nesting and brooding cover within the site (DeChant et al. 2003).

Research Needs

Territory size/requirements for successful rearing of young, effect of landscape context, and the importance of proximity to other breeding Upland Sandpipers. More information on the importance of pastures and proper stocking rates and pasture management for this and other grassland species.

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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