Spotted Sandpiper
Actitis macularia
Family Scolopacidae

One of the smallest North American sandpipers, the spotted sandpiper (or “spotty”) is a common visitor to freshwater lakeshores and streamsides, easily recognizable by its teetering gait.

Identifying Traits (both sexes):

  • Olive-brown above
  • Undersides spotted in summer, pale white in winter
  • Distinctive white “wedge” at shoulder in winter
  • Short, straight bill
  • Prominent white eye-stripe
  • Yellow-orange legs
  • Single white stripe along the length of each wing visible in flight
  • Size: 19cm (7.5”)
  • Weight: 40g (1.4oz)
  Adult male  

Similar Species: Winter dunlin has black legs, paler back, and no shoulder wedge.

Voice: The call of the spotted sandpiper is usually given as a clear high-pitched note: peet! or pair of notes: peet-weet!  When flying, this may be extended into a long series: peet-weet-weet-weet-weet, which is repeated several times.

Habitat: Spotted sandpipers are at least as abundant near bodies of fresh water as they are at the seashore, if not more so.  They can be found scurrying about and probing for food along pebbly lakeshores, muddy streambanks, and sandy beaches.  They are more commonly found at the seashore during the colder months.


Range: Spotted sandpipers can be found during the breeding season (spring and summer) throughout the northern and central U.S.; during the winter, they migrate to the Gulf coast.

Interesting Facts: Spotted sandpipers are sometimes called “teeter-tails” because of their habit of bobbing their tails up and down as they strut about probing for insects and small mollusks.  This is also a useful character for identification



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