Broad-billed sandpiper

Limicola falcinellus (Pontoppidan, 1763)

Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Scolopacidae

New Zealand status: Native

Conservation status: Vagrant

Other names: broadbilled sandpiper, broad billed sandpiper

Geographical variation: There are two recognised subspecies, with L.f. sibirica, the eastern broad-billed sandpiper, reaching New Zealand.

Broad-billed sandpiper. Juvenile. Manukau Harbour, December 2015. Image © Bartek Wypych by Bartek Wypych

Broad-billed sandpiper. Juvenile. Manukau Harbour, December 2015. Image © Bartek Wypych by Bartek Wypych

The broad-billed sandpiper is a small Arctic-breeding wader that migrates to South-east Asia and north-west Australia in the non-breeding season. It is between a wrybill and a red-necked stint in size, and the few birds that reach New Zealand usually associate with either or both those species. Broad-billed sandpipers have short legs, a squat body and a long heavy black bill which droops at the end like a dunlin’s. The best diagnostic feature is the pale double eyebrow (‘supercilium’) which meets above the bill.

Identification   

The broad-billed sandpiper is a small migrant wader, slightly larger than a stint. It is most like a non-breeding dunlin, with the same heavy bill, drooped at the tip, giving a front-heavy appearance as though the bill is too long for the bird. The head, neck and upperparts are scaly brown-grey, with dark feather centres and paler edges. The underparts are mainly white, with dark speckling forming a light gorget on the breast. The diagnostic double supercilium is formed by parallel pale stripes above each eye, with a dark crown stripe between the two upper pale stripes. In breeding plumage this central stripe becomes black. A dark leading edge to the upperwing is apparent in flight, and there is a narrow white wingbar, and white sides to an otherwise blackish rump. The legs are greenish. Juvenile birds are much brighter, with rufous edges to back feathers and a prominent white V on the back feathers. Broad-billed sandpipers feed by vertical probing in mud and shallow pools, in a slower manner than stints.                                           

Voice: a buzzing chreeit, and also prrr.

Similar species: dunlin and western sandpiper (equally rare vagrants in New Zealand) have similar heavy bills, drooped at the tip, but have a poorly defined single supercilium and longer black legs. Western sandpiper is also smaller. Curlew sandpiper has a long bill that is decurved along the whole length, not just at the tip and has much longer legs than broad-billed sandpiper. It also lacks the striped head pattern, and has a white rump.

Distribution and habitat

The broad-billed sandpiper is a Eurasian Arctic breeding species. The Eastern subspecies sibirica breeds in eastern Siberia and migrates to South-east Asia and north-western Australia. Very few come to New Zealand. They have been reported in North Island harbours, especially the Manukau and Firth of Thames every few years since 1960, but only in ones or twos.

New Zealand records

There are about 20 accepted records of broad-billed sandpipers in New Zealand, but there are likely to be others that were never submitted to the Rare Birds Committee or subsequent Records Appraisal Committee for verification. Most records are from Miranda (1960, 1964, 1966, 1968-70, 1993-95) and Manukau Harbour (1963, 1992-93, 1998, 2000, 2001-04, 2015-16), with occasional birds at Lake Ellesmere (1962, 2001), Parengarenga Harbour (1970), Kaipara Harbour (1991), and Manawatu Estuary (1992-93). The gap in the records during the 1980s was probably a lack of reporting rather than an absence of birds.

Behaviour and ecology

Little is known about breeding ecology of broad-billed sandpipers. They breed in wet taiga bogs of northern Europe and Siberia, laying 4 eggs in a scrape on the ground.

Food

In the non-breeding season, broad-billed sandpipers feed in tidal habitats on worms, molluscs, crabs, insects and seeds.

Websites

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broad-billed_Sandpiper

http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=3061

http://www.oiseaux.net/birds/photos/broad-billed.sandpiper.html

References

Chandler, R. 2009. Shorebirds of North America, Europe and Asia. PrincetonUniversity Press.

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.

O’Brien, M.; Crossley, R.; Karlson, K. 2006 The shorebird guide. Houghton Mifflin Co.

Sibson, R.B.; McKenzie, H. R. 1960 Broad-billed sandpiper in the Firth of Thames; a new bird for New Zealand. Notornis 8: 233-235.

Recommended citation

Walker, J. 2013 [updated 2016]. Broad-billed sandpiper. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Broad-billed sandpiper

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Eastern broad-billed sandpiper

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