copyright: J. del Hoyo
North American RangeThe Solitary Sandpiper is shaped like the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, but is smaller than both and has shorter, greenish legs. The bill is straight, thin, and of medium length. The dark back is covered in light spots, and the head is streaked gray. The head is dark enough that the white eye-ring is fairly distinct. The tail pattern, seen in flight, is distinctive. The outer edges are white, barred with black, with a dark center. The wings are entirely dark underneath, sharply contrasting with the white belly.
During the breeding season, Solitary Sandpipers inhabit muskeg bogs surrounded by spruce. During migration, they are usually found along the banks of wooded streams, in narrow marsh channels, and sometimes along the edges of open mudflats. They can also be found in places not usually frequented by shorebirds, such as drainage ditches and mud puddles. This is predominantly a freshwater species and generally avoids tidal flats and salt marshes. Solitary Sandpipers winter in swamps and along river-banks.
The Solitary Sandpiper nests in the forests of Canada and Alaska then migrates to South America starting in about July. They are the commonest shorebird in inland Brazil and, as their name suggests, they are seldom found in flocks.
Aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates are the most common food of the Solitary Sandpiper. These include insects and insect larvae, spiders, worms, and tadpoles.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 5,500,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 150,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
The nesting biology of this species is not well known. Unlike most shorebirds, Solitary Sandpipers do not nest on the ground, but find an old, abandoned, songbird nest in a tree. (The nest is usually one that was built by an American Robin, Rusty Blackbird, Eastern Kingbird, Gray Jay or one of the waxwings--all of which build sturdy nests that are likely to survive a winter.) The male finds the nest, which the female reworks until it is suitable to her needs. She does not add any nest material, but may rearrange the lining. This nest is usually in a spruce or other conifer and may be 4'40 feet up. Both parents help incubate the 4 eggs for 23-24 days. The nestling state is not well known, but the parents are not known to feed the young, so they probably jump from the nest at an early age and start to find their own food. Fledging age is not known. A pair raises a single brood each season.
Migratory, overland on broad fronts, extending right across North America, but main passage E of Rocky Mts. Race cinnamomea migrates mainly through region from mountains of W USA E to Montana and Colorado, on occasion E to Mississippi valley; race solitaria moves through region from Montana and Utah E to Atlantic states of USA. In autumn, some birds apparently pass over W Atlantic, directly from Canadian Maritime Provinces to N South America. Races mix in winter quarters, species is common migrant and short-term resident along lakes and rivers in W Amazon area. Seldom migrates in flocks. Some birds oversummer in Neotropics.