Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos (Linnaeus, 1758) CS COMSA 5560
Family: Charadriiformes > Scolopacidae

Common Sandpiper, Moss Taylor

This small wader is most commonly encountered on upland rivers and lochs, and characteristically flicks its wings as it flies low over the water.

Brown above, with a well demarcated white breast, this handsome wader returns from its African wintering quarters in late April and pairs hold linear territories, defending them with noisy display flight. The species nests in vegetation by the water side, where, in common with most waders, it lays typically lays four eggs.

Numbers have declined steadily in recent years, for reasons that remain unclear, but may be linked to climate change increasing mortality in its wintering grounds.

Exploring the trends for Common Sandpiper

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Common Sandpiper population is changing.

trends explorer


Common Sandpiper identification is sometimes difficult.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Common Sandpiper, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Alarm call



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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



WBS/WBBS results for this species show a decline from 1985 onwards (after a more gradual increase) that has yet to be explained. This decline is also evident in BBS squares in England, although the BBS decline in Scotland has been shallower. Following declines during the 1990s in the large Swedish and Finnish populations, the European status of this species is no longer considered 'secure' (BirdLife International 2004). There has been a decline across Europe since 1980 (PECBMS: PECBMS 2020a>). The species was moved from the green to the amber list in 2009 on the strength of its declines in UK and across Europe.

Exploring the trends for Common Sandpiper

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Common Sandpiper population is changing.

trends explorer


Common Sandpipers breed in the uplands of Wales, northern England, much of Scotland and western Ireland, with only small numbers outside these areas. Small numbers winter, mostly in southern parts of Ireland, England and Wales.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Common Sandpiper breeding range has contracted by 20% across Britain & Ireland since the 1968–72 Breeding Atlas. Losses have been greatest in Ireland, central Wales and on lower ground adjacent to the uplands in England and Scotland.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Common Sandpipers are very localised winter visitors but mostly summer visitors from April onwards. Arrivals merge into the autumn return passage which can begin from June.

Weekly occurence of Common Sandpiper from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Common Sandpiper ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Common Sandpiper, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.


Exploring the trends for Common Sandpiper

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Common Sandpiper population is changing.

trends explorer


View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report

Exploring the trends for Common Sandpiper

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Common Sandpiper population is changing.

trends explorer


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Fìdhleir-bòrd-an-locha
Welsh: Pibydd Dorlan
Catalan: xivitona comuna
Czech: pisík obecný
Danish: Mudderklire
Dutch: Oeverloper
Estonian: vihitaja e. jõgitilder
Finnish: rantasipi
French: Chevalier guignette
German: Flussuferläufer
Hungarian: billegetocankó
Icelandic: Lindastelkur
Irish: Gobadán Coiteann
Italian: Piro piro piccolo
Latvian: upes tilbite
Lithuanian: paprastasis krantinis tilvikas
Norwegian: Strandsnipe
Polish: brodziec piskliwy
Portuguese: maçarico-das-rochas / maçarico-ribeirinho
Slovak: kalužiacik malý
Slovenian: mali martinec
Spanish: Andarríos chico
Swedish: drillsnäppa
Folkname: Sand Lark


Interpretation and scientific publications about Common Sandpiper from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The drivers of the decline of this species are unclear; however it is unlikely to be caused by changes in the wintering area and hence probably relates to problems occurring during either the breeding season or on migration, or both.

Further information on causes of change

Poorer breeding success and reduced survival of first-year birds over the winter in West Africa were both suggested as possible reasons for the failure of the Peak District population to recover after a hard-weather event in 1989 (Holland & Yalden 2002). The reasons for poor recruitment to the breeding population are hard to assess in the absence of firm information on where British birds spend the winter (Dougall et al. 2010). However recent tracking of ten adult birds from Scotland identified coastal Guinea-Bissau as the most important wintering area and concluded that it was unlikely that habitat change in this area had been sufficient to cause the observed decline. The tracked birds did experience some unfavourable weather during northward migration but further work would be needed to confirm whether this could have affected population levels (Summers et al. 2019).

UK clutch sizes appear to have shown a slight decline from the 1960s to the 1990s, which has since been almost reversed, although this is based on a small sample.

Information about conservation actions

In one study in the Peak District, disturbance from anglers restricted the area available to sandpipers at the study site and hence reduced the breeding population (Yalden 1992). Whilst it remains unclear whether similar disturbance has been widespread enough to have contributed to the population declines, actions to prevent disturbance at key sites would be prudent.

In the absence of any evidence identifying other specific recommendations, actions to conserve existing habitats and water quality should also be considered.


Research Reports
Dunlin by Edmund Fellowes

Sensitivity mapping for breeding waders in Britain: towards producing zonal maps to guide wader conservation, forest expansion and other land-use changes. Report with specific data for Northumberland and north-east Cumbria

Sensitivity mapping for breeding waders

2021 | O’Connell, P., Wilson, M., Wetherhill, A. & Calladine, J.British Trust for Ornithology Research Report

Models to be used towards the development of tools to guide, inform and minimise conflict between wader conservation and forest expansion.

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