The White-rumped Sandpiper is an entertaining shorebird, aggressive and ornery, willing to chase other birds from the area it is feeding in no matter how abundant the food source is. Their long wings extend past their tail and give them a sleek look even when they are in the midst of fattening up for their extremely long migration of over eight thousand miles. I don’t know anyone who calls Calidris fuscicollis their favorite bird but they need a fan club because they certainly have a personality that should attract admirers. Perhaps it is because they are seen as just another “peep” that they get no love, or perhaps, like with people, white rumps are just not considered attractive. Maybe the White-rumped Sandpiper is another bird that needs new marketing: everyone would want to check the Bad-ass Sandpiper, which would be just as appropriate a name and much cooler, off of their lists. Alas, it seems unlikely that anyone will ever listen to my suggestions for new bird names and the White-rumped Sandpiper will continue to migrate from northern Alaska and the Canadian Arctic to southern South America anonymously, noticed only by obsessives who try to see every bird every single year. Such is the curse of a bird too good at what it does to be rare and not colorful enough to be crowd-pleasing.
It’s a shame though, because, really, the White-rumped Sandpiper should be familiar to everyone. Heck, it should be on the cover of a box of Wheaties. After all, its migration is one of the longest in the Western Hemisphere and, according to The Shorebird Guide, “A good portion of the 8,000+ mi. (12,870+km) journey is covered in several nonstop flights that can last up to 60 hours and cover up to 2,500 miles (4,000 km).
If I am getting on a flight that will last just six hours I want medication and I don’t even have to do the flying! So, let’s cheer the White-rumped Sandpiper, a little shorebird that travels a long, long way to be mostly ignored by the world. Hopefully, after you see these pictures, all taken on one recent day at Jamaica Bay’s East Pond, you will want to see your own White-rumped Sandpiper.
Pete Dunne points out that the White-rumped Sandpiper “Defends feeding territory aggressively, chasing other peeps away while vocalizing angrily.”
I’ll second that description and repeat my idea of renaming Calidris fuscicollis the Bad-ass Sandpiper.
Forgive me my overindulgence here, but I really must share a few more shots.
Finally, one last shot, one that shows the namesake rump. The white rump is a very useful field mark because only the Curlew Sandpiper among small shorebirds also has a white rump.
This post has been submitted to Bird Photography Weekly #105. Go check it out!