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Scolopacidae - Woodcock, Snipe, Sandpipers & Allies

Sandpiper
Dunlin Calidris alpina ©Will Price Website

The Scolopacidae are a family of waders that includes sandpipers, snipe, woodcock, curlews, stints, godwits, dowitchers, turnstones, phalaropes and shanks.

Don Taylor & Stephen Message are, respectively, the author and illustrator of: Waders of Europe, Asia & North America - Don Taylor writes:

Wader identification has fascinated me right from my early birding years back in the 1950s, when I was fortunate enough to find the attractive and elusive little Jack Snipe wintering on both my local patches - Hampstead Heath and Brent Reservoir. The latter soon provided other identification challenges with sightings of Wood Sandpiper and Ruff. I remember in May 1959 hitchhiking from Hampstead Garden Suburb to that Mecca of sites, Wisbech sewage-farm, to see my first Temminck's Stint.

My interest was strengthened later that same year, when I observed the delightful Red-necked Phalaropes on their breeding grounds in the Outer Hebrides and the confiding Dotterel on the Cairngorms. However, it was probably the two years I spent living beside Lake Ontario, from August 1962 to July 1964, when I had the challenge of identifying the various 'peeps' in their autumn plumages that hooked me completely. Since settling in Kent late in 1964, there have been numbers of opportunities to add further species to my ever expanding list, including such rarities as Sociable Plover in 1968, Buff-breasted Sandpiper in 1977, Terek Sandpiper in 1982, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper in 1987 and Oriental Pratincole in 1988.

Leading tours in Europe and farther afield created greater opportunities and I found one of my favourite waders, a Cream-coloured Courser, in Southern Spain in 1979. However, it was on trips specifically planned to add new wader species, with Tony Prater and David Rosair, which really helped us expand our individual wader lists. Three weeks in Argentina and Chile in November 1979 produced another 17 species for me, including my favourite, the Diademed Plover.

I spent a month in Australia and New Zealand in January 2007, when I was able to add another 22 species, including the New Zealand Snipe on Enderby Island, during a Sub-Antarctic cruise. In May 2006 I visited Estonia to see the last of the European waders that had, until then, eluded me - Great Snipe. This was followed by two single species quests in 2008; Japan in March for Amami Woodcock and Thailand in November for the recently re-discovered White-faced Plover. To bring the story right up to date I enjoyed a week with Wirebirds (St Helena Plover) on St Helena in July/August 2009 and am now left with just a dozen more to see around the world, however these may take some time as they include such isolated locations as the Tuamotu and Chatham Islands, as well as four different South American countries for four snipe species.

Mentioning long periods of time, Stephen has had to wait far too long to see this book published, after a lengthy six-year gestation period. It was David Rosair who came up with the idea of illustrating confusing species together and I recommended that he ask Stephen to produce the plates. Sadly, or fortunately from my point of view, when David was unable to continue with the writing, Stephen suggested that I should be asked.

It has been a great pleasure working with him and, after about two years of writing and further painting, we are naturally delighted to see the book finally published and we are pleased with the design work, particularly of the American version.

Stephen remembers, as a 12 year-old living in his home village of Benenden, repeatedly flushing a small dark bird from the village pond.

I noted that it had a white rump, gave a distinctive call and I eventually realised, of course, that it was a Green Sandpiper. Apart from having seen Snipe and Lapwing locally, this wader was effectively my introduction to this fascinating and in many instances highly migratory family. I realised that this meant virtually anything could turn up anywhere creating exciting opportunities. My first ever watercolour of a bird, painted at the age of 10, was indeed a Northern Lapwing, which I presented to my Grandparents. The Lapwing is still one of my top subjects and my favourite wader species.

We hope that many will enjoy the continuing challenge of wader identification; for which I would like to recommend an excellent very recently published tome Shorebirds of the Northern Hemisphere by Richard Chandler, a renowned wader photographer. It is filled with probably half-a-lifetime of his superb photographs to illustrate a detailed text.

There are 91 species of snipe, sandpipers etc. in the family Scolopacidae, according to the IOC; they are:

Eurasian Woodcock Scolopax rusticola
Amami Woodcock Scolopax mira
Javan Woodcock Scolopax saturata
New Guinea Woodcock Scolopax rosenbergii
Bukidnon Woodcock Scolopax bukidnonensis
Sulawesi Woodcock Scolopax celebensis
Moluccan Woodcock Scolopax rochussenii
American Woodcock Scolopax minor

Chatham Snipe Coenocorypha pusilla
Snares Snipe Coenocorypha huegeli
Subantarctic Snipe Coenocorypha aucklandica

Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus

Solitary Snipe Gallinago solitaria
Latham's Snipe Gallinago hardwickii
Wood Snipe Gallinago nemoricola
Pin-tailed Snipe Gallinago stenura
Swinhoe's Snipe Gallinago megala
African Snipe Gallinago nigripennis
Madagascan Snipe Gallinago macrodactyla
Great Snipe Gallinago media
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Wilson's Snipe Gallinago delicata
South American Snipe Gallinago paraguaiae
Puna Snipe Gallinago andina
Noble Snipe Gallinago nobilis
Giant Snipe Gallinago undulata
Fuegian Snipe Gallinago stricklandii
Jameson's Snipe Gallinago jamesoni
Imperial Snipe Gallinago imperialis

Short-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus griseus
Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus
Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus

Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Marbled Godwit Limosa fedoa

Little Curlew Numenius minutus
Eskimo Curlew Numenius borealis
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis
Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Far Eastern Curlew Numenius madagascariensis
Long-billed Curlew Numenius americanus

Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda

Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Nordmann's Greenshank Tringa guttifer
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Grey-tailed Tattler Tringa brevipes
Wandering Tattler Tringa incana
Willet Tringa semipalmata

Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus

Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularius

Tuamotu Sandpiper Prosobonia parvirostris

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Black Turnstone Arenaria melanocephala

Surfbird Aphriza virgata

Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris
Red Knot Calidris canutus
Sanderling Calidris alba
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri
Red-necked Stint Calidris ruficollis
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii
Long-toed Stint Calidris subminuta
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
White-rumped Sandpiper Calidris fuscicollis
Baird's Sandpiper Calidris bairdii
Pectoral Sandpiper Calidris melanotos
Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Calidris acuminata
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima
Rock Sandpiper Calidris ptilocnemis
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Stilt Sandpiper Calidris himantopus

Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus

Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Wilson's Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor
Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus
Red Phalarope Phalaropus fulicarius

Family Links

Sandpipers & Allies Scolopacidae

Family Account

Sandpipers are a large family, Scolopacidae, of waders or shorebirds. They include many species called sandpipers, as well as those called by names such as curlew and snipe.

Sandpipers & Allies Scolopacidae

Family Account

Family account…

Sandpipers & Allies Scolopacidae

IBC Family Account

Family account…

Sandpipers & Allies Scolopacidae

Cornell Family Account

List with links to individual species…

Species Links

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Species Account

The whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) is a wader in the large family Scolopacidae. It is one of the most widespread of the curlews, breeding across much of subarctic North America, Europe and Asia as far south as Scotland.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Species Account

The ruff (Philomachus pugnax) is a medium-sized wading bird that breeds in marshes and wet meadows across northern Eurasia. This highly gregarious sandpiper is migratory and sometimes forms huge flocks in its winter grounds, which include southern and western Europe, Africa, southern Asia and Australia. It is usually considered to be the only member of its genus, and the broad-billed and sharp-tailed sandpipers are its closest relatives.

Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis

BirdLife Species Account

Dunlin Calidris alpina

Species Account

The dunlin (Calidris alpina) is a small wader, sometimes separated with the other "stints" in Erolia.

Dunlin Calidris alpina

RSPB Species Account

The commonest small wader found along the coast. It has a slightly down-curved bill and a distinctive black belly patch in breeding plumage. It feeds in flocks in winter, sometimes numbering thousands, roosting on nearby fields, saltmarshes and shore when the tide is high.

Dunlin Calidris alpina

BirdLife Species Account

Dunlin Calidris alpina

IUCN Species Status

Dunlin Calidris alpina

Cornell Species Account

The Dunlin is a familiar shorebird around the world, where its bright reddish back and black belly, and long, drooping bill distinguish it from nearly all other shorebirds.

Dunlin Calidris alpina

HBW Species Account

Dunlin Calidris alpina

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis

Species Account

The bristle-thighed curlew (Numenius tahitiensis) is a medium-sized shorebird that breeds in Alaska and winters on tropical Pacific islands.

Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis

IUCN Species Status

Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Scolopax tahitiensis J. F. Gmelin, 1789, Tahiti. Monotypic.

Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

RSPB Species Account

Conservation status: Red The ruff is a medium-sized wading bird. It has a long neck, a small head, a rather short slightly droopy bill and medium-long orange or reddish leg.

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

BirdLife Species Account

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

IUCN Species Status

Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Cornell Species Account

One of the most wide-ranging shorebirds in the world, the Whimbrel breeds in the Arctic in the eastern and western hemispheres, and migrates to South America, Africa, south Asia, and Australia

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

BirdLife Species Account

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

HBW Species Account

Taxonomy: Scolopax phæopus Linnaeus, 1758, Sweden. Seven subspecies recognized.

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Species Account

Sound archive and distribution map.

Contributor

Don Taylor & Stephen Message

Author & Illustrator of Waders of Europe, Asia & North America

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 91

Useful Reading

Shorebirds

An Identification Guide to the Waders of the World by Pter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater - Helm 1986

ISBN: 0713635096

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Shorebirds

(WorldLife Library) by Des Thimpson, Ingvar Byrkjedal 2001

ISBN: 1841070750

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Shorebirds of North America - The Photographic guide

by Dennis Paulson Christopher Helm 2005. Price ?24.99p

ISBN: 071367377X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Waders of Europe, Asia & North America

by Stephen Message & Don Taylor published by Christopher Helm 2006 price ?24.99p See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 071365290X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Geographical Variation in Waders

by Meinte Engelmoer and Cees S Roselaar 331 pages, figs, tabs, maps. Kluwer Academic Publishers

ISBN: 0792350200

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Snipes

by Edited by R Rouxel - 304 pages, 60 col plates. Eveil Nature 2000

ISBN: 284000027X

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Curlew

by Gerry Cotter - Sub-series: SHIRE NATURAL HISTORY SERIES: BIRDS 55 24 pages, col photos, b/w photos, maps. Shire Publications 1990

ISBN: 0747800901

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Woodcock

- Artists' Impressions - S Gudgeon, K Sykes and B Hoskyns - 147 pages, illus. Quiller Publishing

ISBN: 1904057837

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Australasian Wader Studies Group

Website

The Australasian Wader Studies Group was formed in 1981 as a special interest group of Birds Australia. The group is an non-government organisation dedicated to studying waders (otherwise known as shorebirds) throughout the East-Asian Australasian Flyway. There are about 330 members, of which 90 are from Asia…

International Wader Study Group

Website

The International Wader Study Group (IWSG) is an association of amateurs and professionals from all parts of the world interested in Charadrii (waders or shorebirds). Membership of the WSG is currently over 650 worldwide. Members can be found in over 50 countries around the world, including all European countries and the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australasia. The interests of the group have diversified from its original focus from ringing and migration-related studies to embrace all aspects of wader biology.

Western Atlantic Shorebird Association

Website

The first research project to be part of WASA is the International Banding Project which is being led by Professor Allan Baker, Canada and Patricia M. González, Argentina. This project is colour-banding Red Knots (Calidris canutus rufa); Sanderlings (Calidris alba) and Ruddy Turnstones (Arenaria interpres) along the Atlantic coast of the Americas in an effort to establish their migratory strategies.

Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Website

WHSRN is a voluntary, non-regulatory coalition of over 200 private and public organizations in seven countries working together to study and conserve shorebirds throughout their habitats. Participation in WHSRN provides the site with international recognition as a major host for shorebirds. OUR MISSION: The conservation, restoration, and management of critical shorebird habitats throughout the Americas…

Forums & Mailing Lists

FWS-Shorebirds

Mailing List

Digest only

Blogs

World Waders News Blog

Blog

A Global Pool For News On Shorebirds/Waders…

Other Links

Whimbrel Satellite Tracking - Where's Wally?

Website

Wally was wintering at Conakry, Guinea, West Africa from 30/08/2005 to 22/04/2006. Since Mid April Whimbrel have been roosting in the Lower Derwent Valley near York, England as they refuel before continuing the journey to the Breeding Grounds in Iceland and Scandinavia. Wally's Route and Journey Time is now being revealed…

Wader World

Website

Worldwide Wader Watching…

Wader Quest

Website

It is vital to to take action to prevent the Spoon-billed Sandpiper from becoming extinct. Wader Quest is an attempt to raise money and awareness to the plight of, not just these tiny wanderers but of wader species worldwide…

The New Shorebirds Handbook Project

Blog

This is a blog of The New Shorebirds Handbook Project which aims to bring together the current knowledge on shorebird science, conservation and a little bit more. By following the blog, readers could insight into the progress and important milestones of the project and the recent news on the world of waders and a bit more of us, the authors….