Terek sandpiper

Tringa cinerea (Güldenstaedt, 1774)

Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Scolopacidae

New Zealand status: Native

Conservation status: Vagrant

Geographical variation: Nil

Terek sandpiper. Adult, non-breeding. Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria, Australia, January 2008. Image © Sonja Ross by Sonja Ross

Terek sandpiper. Adult, non-breeding. Western Treatment Plant, Werribee, Victoria, Australia, January 2008. Image © Sonja Ross by Sonja Ross

Terek sandpipers are an exception among small sandpipers in that they are easy to identify. No other small wader has a long up-curved bill, and few have bright yellow or orange legs. The few Terek sandpipers that reach New Zealand often associate with wrybills. These small plovers are typically very accepting of close observation, which makes it easy to get a good look at a Terek sandpiper, as they adopt the calm demeanour of the surrounding flock. The name ‘Terek’ is from the Terek River in the northern Caucasus, which flows through Georgia and Russia into the Caspian Sea.

Identification

The Terek sandpiper is a small grey-brown wader with short, conspicuously yellow or orange legs, and a long upturned bill. In flight, a thin white trailing edge shows on the upperwing.

Voice: variable, including a fluty wee-we and twit-wit-wit.

Similar species: the Terek sandpiper is quite unlike any other wader. Bar-tailed godwit and common greenshank have slightly upturned bills, but both are much larger and much longer legged. Red-necked avocet has a very obvious upturned bill but it is much larger, and black-and-white with a reddish brown head.

Distribution and habitat

The Terek sandpiper breeds in the boreal taiga zone of Eurasia, from Russia to the Russian Far East. In the non-breeding season, they are widespread on coasts throughout much of Africa, Arabia, southern India, South-east Asia, Indonesia and northern and eastern Australia.

Population

The population of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway is estimated at 50,000 (Wetlands International 2012). It is unclear how many Terek sandpipers now reach New Zealand. They were regular visitors in low numbers through to the 1980s, with up to eight at a time occurring at favoured sites (especially Kaipara Harbour, Miranda and the Manukau Harbour). As they were regularly present and easy to identifiy, bird watchers tended to take them for granted, and rely on biannual wader counts to monitor their numbers, rather than submitting sightings to the OSNZ Rare Birds Committee (now Records Appraisal Committee). Terek sandpipers are now a much rarer bird in New Zealand, and probably no longer reach New Zealand every year. They have been found from Northland to Southland, usually among flocks of wrybills or other small waders. Other sites with multiple records include Parengarenga Harbour, Manawatu Estuary, Farewell Spit, Lake Ellesmere and Awarua Bay.

Threats and conservation   

About 25% of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Terek sandpiper population stages in the Yellow Sea on northward migration  – an area under severe threat from reclamation and pollution.

Breeding

Terek sandpipers nest on the ground in short vegetation, in a scrape lined with plant material and debris. The usual clutch is 4 eggs.

Behaviour and ecology

Terek sandpipers forage by pecking at the surface, jabbing and probing. At times they have a characteristic way of foraging, approaching prey  by running with the head held low in front of the bird. Occasionally they may feed like an avocet, moving the head from side to side with the bill in shallow water.

Food

During the non-breeding season, Terek sandpipers mostly feed on crabs, but they also take amphipods, and flies and other insects.

Weblinks   

http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3026

http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=59300

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terek_Sandpiper

References

Barter, M. 2002. Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea: importance, threats and conservation status. Wetlands International Global Series 9.

Bilijsma, R.G.; Roder, F.E. 1991. Foraging behaviour of Terek sandpipers Xenus cinereus in Thailand. Wader Study Group Bulletin 61: 22-26.

Brown, B. 1982. Terek sandpiper feeding like an avocet. Notornis 29: 7-8.

Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of the northern hemisphere. Helm,London.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (eds) 1996. Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 3. Hoatzin to auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Hayman, P.; Marchant, J.; Prater, T. 1986. Shorebirds – an identification guide to the waders of the world. Croom Helm, London & Sydney.

Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 2005. The field guide to the birds of New Zealand. 2nd edition. Penguin, Rosedale, Auckland.

Higgins, P.J.; Davies, S.J.J.F. (eds) 1996. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic birds. Vol. 3, snipe to pigeons. Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Mackinnon, J.; Verkuil, Y.I.; Murray, N. 2012. IUCN situation analysis on East and Southeast Asian intertidal habitats, with particular reference to the Yellow Sea (including the Bohai Sea). Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 47. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. 70 p.

Southey, I. 2009. Numbers of waders in New Zealand 1994-2003. DOC Research & Development Series 308. Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Wetlands International. 2012. Waterbird population estimates. Retrieved from wpe.wetlands.org on Wednesday 18 Jul 2012.

Recommended citation

Melville, D.S. 2013. Terek sandpiper. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Terek sandpiper

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