Upland Sandpiper

The Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) is a species of shorebird found in open grasslands and fields across central North America and Alaska. It is migratory and winters in South America. It is a very rare visitor to Europe, and mostly only occurs in the Isles of Scilly, where it can be very tame. It used to be known as the Upland Plover or the Bartram’s Sandpiper. The genus name commemorates the American naturalist William Bartram.

The Adult is 11 to 12.5 inches long with a 19.5 to 21.75 inch wingspan. It has long yellow legs and a long neck and tail. The head and neck are light colored with brown streaking. The back and upper wings are a darker mottled brown and the belly is white. It can be identified by its unique call, sometimes called a “wolf whistle”, which features a long, ascending whistle followed by a second rising or falling call. These sounds are often made when the bird is landing or when flying high.

Upland Sandpipers can often be seen in small nesting colonies. The breeding season is from early to late summer. The nest is located on the ground in dense grassy areas. The female lays 4 eggs, and both parents look after the young. The parents may perform displays of distraction to lure predators away from the nest and the young. They forage in fields, picking up food by sight. They are frequently sighted on fence posts or even telephone poles. They mainly eat insects and some vegetation.

Populations of this species increased in the early 19th century as forests were cleared, but took a sharp downward decline in the late 1800s due to hunting. In Midwestern North America, they have recovered, but eastern populations are scattered at best. Loss of prairie habitat and livestock grazing is a concern and is responsible for the reduction of nesting in the field.