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Are Solitary Sandpipers Really Solitary?

Now I know it’s not shorebird season right now, but I never pass up the opportunity to photograph members of one of my favourite families of birds. Solitary Sandpipers are winter migrants to T&T, which differentiates them from¬†passage migrants – those birds who just stop by during the months of August/September on their way south. Migratory patterns usually follow an elliptical, so they generally do not pass here on their northward journey – this usually takes place over Central America. Winter migrants like the Solitary Sandpiper stay here and fatten for the cold months in the north, then head back up to their breeding grounds in the near-arctic.

Tremendous journey these little birds have to endure, that’s for certain. What’s even more fantastic is that juvenile birds are left on the breeding grounds to migrate last. Yeah, the adults leave the young ones to fatten and find their way south, all on their own. Although seeming cruel, it’s really altruistic on the part of the adult birds, as they are ensuring that they don’t deplete the food resources on the breeding grounds – they leave all of this for the young birds. And their built in GPS ensures that they arrive safely at their destinations.

Generally solitary as their name implies, they’re sometimes found in small groups, I think four Solitaries is the most I’ve seen together at once. Here I photographed two birds, the one on the left is likely a juvenile – its spots are stronger, and its head and breast have that brown wash, as opposed to the cleaner streaking on the other bird, a non-breeding adult.

solitary sandpipers