The Sandpiper of Muddy Ponds
The Solitary Sandpiper is a medium-sized sandpiper (length 22 cm/8.5 in). It has a spotted dark brown back and rump, white underparts with streaks on the neck and sides. It has a black tail with white barring on the edges. Birders find it easy to identify by the white eye ring and the greenish bill and legs. Both male and female birds look alike.
The Solitary Sandpiper has some interesting behaviours. When it lands it often holds its wings up showing its dark underwings. It is the only sandpiper that nests in abandoned songbird nests. It lays its olive eggs marked with brown spots in abandoned Rusty Blackbird, Bohemian Waxwing, Gray Jay or American Robin nests. It will also build its own nest.
Even though this species is fairly easy to identify, here we have to differentiate it from two species which may be found in similar habitat; Spotted Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs. The Lesser Yellowlegs is about the same size but it is grayer in colour and it has bright yellow legs. The Spotted Sandpiper is a smaller bird with a white eyebrow not an eye ring, breast spots in the spring and no streaks on the sides and neck in the fall. It also has yellow legs.
The Solitary Sandpiper was first described in 1813 by Alexander Wilson but its nest was not discovered until 1903. Before that it was confused with the Spotted Sandpiper.