Calidris alba (Pallas, 1764) SS SANDE 4970
Family: Charadriiformes > Scolopacidae

Sanderling, Edmund Fellowes

The caricature of a Sanderling is a small, white mouse-like wader chasing the tideline back and forth on a sandy beach.

These birds are winter visitors to Britain & Ireland, distributed widely around the coast and preferring long sandy beaches and sandbars.

Sanderlings are seen less frequently at inland sites than other coastal waders. It was previously thought that all our winter visitors originated from breeders in Siberia, but ringing studies have shown that we also host individuals from the Greenland population on passage, some of which stay for the winter.


Sanderling identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Sanderling.

related video

Identifying Sanderling and Curlew Sandpiper

In the UK in late Summer some may be daunted by the prospect of identifying individual species in frequent groups of small waders. The key to differing between many of these small, plump birds is to become accustomed with Dunlin first. In this Bird ID video we compare Sanderling and Curlew Sandpiper to their more well-recognised cousin.


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

Flight call

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.

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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.




Sanderlings in winter are predominantly coastal and much scarcer inland than most other waders. They can be found along most stretches of coast but are most abundant away from estuaries, instead preferring areas where sandy beaches and sandbars prevail. The North Sea coast, Outer Hebrides, Ribble Estuary and Carmarthen Bay hold the highest densities.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


The Sanderling winter range has expanded by 31% and 21% in Britain and Ireland respectively since the 1980s. Gains in Britain have occurred throughout most of the coastline, and at inland sites, although distribution along the North Sea coast has remained stable. In Ireland, gains have been predominantly in the west and northwest.


Sanderlings are winter visitors, but as a high Arctic breeder, passage continues into late May.

Weekly occurence of Sanderling 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 Sanderling 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 Sanderling, 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-glas
Welsh: Pibydd y Tywod
Catalan: territ de tres dits
Czech: jespák písecný
Danish: Sandløber
Dutch: Drieteenstrandloper
Estonian: leeterüdi e. leeterisla
Finnish: pulmussirri
French: Bécasseau sanderling
German: Sanderling
Hungarian: fenyérfutó
Icelandic: Sanderla
Irish: Luathrán
Italian: Piovanello tridattilo
Latvian: gaišais šnibitis
Lithuanian: paprastasis smiltinukas
Norwegian: Sandløper
Polish: piaskowiec
Portuguese: maçarico-branco / pilrito-das-praias
Slovak: pobrežník belavý
Slovenian: pešcenec
Spanish: Correlimos tridáctilo
Swedish: sandlöpare
Folkname: Towillee, Curwillet


Interpretation and scientific publications about Sanderling 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.

Peer-reviewed papers

Wintering Sanderlings in Britain

1978 | Prater, A.J. & Davies, M.Bird Study

Links to more information from

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