The purple sandpiper is another one of Maine’s marvelous snowbirds. Not too long ago, we looked at some of the various Arctic snowbirds in Maine. Now, let’s look at one in particular—the purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima).
The Purple Sandpiper’s Home
The purple sandpiper is found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. For the purpose of this blog, we will examine the purple sandpipers that live in North America.
The purple sandpiper spends its time between two locations. During the summer breeding season, purple sandpipers can be found in the tundra of northern Canada. After the breeding season ends, purple sandpipers migrate south to coastal areas from Atlantic Canada down to South Carolina.
An Eclectic Appetite
According to one source, purple sandpipers’ diet varies between the breeding and non-breeding season. When located on the breeding grounds, they forage on tundra and the shoreline. Their diet can include:
mostly insects, also some crustaceans, spiders, worms. Unlike most sandpipers, also eats some plant material, including berries, buds, seeds, leaves, and moss.
However, when purple sandpipers are in their winter homes, they can be found chowing down:
mostly small mollusks, including mussels and snails, also some crustaceans and insects.
There are several intriguing facts about the family life of purple sandpipers. Both male and female purple sandpipers share incubation duties and they generally mate for life.
Interestingly, males often raise the chicks alone – the female leaves the male and brood shortly after hatching. The male parent will stay with the chicks until they are able to fly, helping them find food and shelter along the way. All About Birds notes that “stay-at-home-dads” are “unique among shorebird species that share incubation duties.”
Making Their Home
Building a home is a joint effort between male and female purple sandpipers. Males will select several potential sites in the tundra but it is the female who decides on the final location. Purple sandpipers use brush to cover and conceal their nest.
Stopping by Maine
Like other snowbirds, purple sandpipers migrate to Maine to get away from the cold winters of their breeding grounds. According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:
“They migrate south to Maine in the fall and spend the winters on Maine’s rocky coast, picking through rockweed looking for their next meal of small crabs and other sea life.”
Finding a Purple Sandpiper
Winter is an excellent time to look for purple sandpipers. The website All About Birds suggests the following areas if you’re looking to spot a purple sandpiper.
the U.S. Atlantic coast and into Canada. Rocky marine shorelines as well as jetties, riprap, and breakwaters
Whether you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of the purple sandpiper or are interested in other Maine wildlife, our website has many resources available, including our blog.