Thursday, September 20, 2012

Shorebird Identification: Pectoral Sandpiper

In my opinion, the Pectoral Sandpiper is the one shorebird that can resemble more shorebirds than any other species.  It's a medium sized sandpiper that is larger than the peeps but smaller than the yellowlegs, dowitchers, and other similarly sized shorebirds.   Overall, Pectoral Sandpipers look like Least Sandpipers on steroids.

Shape

As with most shorebird species, the shape is one of the most important aspects of the identification of Pecs (short for Pectorals).  Pecs are plump overall which gives them a much less elegant look than the yellowlegs.
However, they are more elongated than the peeps.  They have medium length necks but smaller heads in proportion to their body size than the peeps.  The bill is of medium length and slightly decurved, so again somewhat between peeps and the larger shorebird species.
 
Pectoral Sandpiper in late summer.

Plumage

One of the most noticeable field marks for Pecs is the distinct demarcation between the streaking on the chest, and the clean white belly.  This sharp demarcation creates a different look than any other shorebirds and the streaking on the chest is more extensive than on any other shorebirds that may be confused with this species.  Overall, Pectorals are very uniformly brown colored through the back, head, and chest.  However, juvenile birds do show brighter caps and scapulars.

Pectoral Sandpiper-probably a female (females have less streaking on the front than males)
The most similar species to the Pectoral is the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper but it is rare in the United States and with some attention to detail can also be separated fairly easily in most cases.

-Eric

1 comment:

Dan Huber said...

Great post, just had these among yellowlegs as a life bird.