Purple Sandpiper

Calidris maritima (Brünnich, 1764) PS PURSA 5100
Family: Charadriiformes > Scolopacidae

Purple Sandpiper, Liz Cutting

This hardy wader is found on exposed rocky shores in winter; only its breeding plumage is purple-tinged.

Never common as a breeding bird, with only a handful of pairs recorded in northern Scotland, the Purple Sandpiper is now a less than annual breeder. A plump, stocky wader with distinctive yellow legs it is distributed around almost all coasts in winter, only being scarce in southern and eastern England.

Ringing records show that Purple Sandpipers are remarkably faithful to wintering sites, with individuals returning to the exact same stretch of coast year after year.


Purple Sandpiper identification is sometimes difficult.


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


Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

Browse training courses

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.




Purple Sandpipers prefer northern, exposed, shallow rocky shores in winter. High concentrations occur along the coasts of the northern North Sea, Northern Isles and Outer Hebrides and around exposed headlands in Ireland. Elsewhere, occupied areas around Wales and southeastern and southern England hold very few birds. Purple Sandpiper is among the UK's rarest breeding species, with occasional breeding in the Scottish Highlands.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2



Purple Sandpipers are winter visitors; returning birds can arrive from June onwards.

Weekly occurence of Purple 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.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Purple 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 Purple Sandpiper, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


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

Gaelic: Luatharan-rìoghail
Welsh: Pibydd Du
Catalan: territ fosc
Czech: jespák morský
Danish: Sortgrå Ryle
Dutch: Paarse Strandloper
Estonian: merirüdi e. meririsla
Finnish: merisirri
French: Bécasseau violet
German: Meerstrandläufer
Hungarian: tengeri partfutó
Icelandic: Sendlingur
Irish: Gobadán Cosbhuí
Italian: Piovanello violetto
Latvian: juras šnibitis
Lithuanian: jurinis begikas
Norwegian: Fjæreplytt
Polish: biegus morski
Portuguese: pilrito-escuro
Slovak: pobrežník morský
Slovenian: morski prodnik
Spanish: Correlimos oscuro
Swedish: skärsnäppa
Folkname: Grollick


Interpretation and scientific publications about Purple Sandpiper from BTO scientists.


Peer-reviewed papers
Avocet - Amy Lewis

Consequences of population change for local abundance and site occupancy of wintering waterbirds

Wavering Waterbirds

2017 | Méndez, V., Gill, J.A., Alves, J.A., Burton, N.H.K. & Davies, R.G.Diversity and Distributions

Protected sites are assigned based on population statistics for vulnerable and endangered species. This new study using WeBS data shows that changes in population size can affect local abundance, and thus influence whether or not key targets are met for site protection.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

Would you like to search for another species?