Where do Sanderlings winter?

Answered by Edward Huber

During the winter months, Sanderlings can be found in the Chesapeake Bay region. It’s quite fascinating to think about these small shorebirds making their way down from the Arctic to spend the winter in our area.

I remember one winter day when I was walking along the beach in the Chesapeake Bay region and came across a flock of Sanderlings. They were such lively little birds, constantly scurrying back and forth along the shoreline, probing the sand with their bills in search of food.

I couldn’t help but wonder what brought them to this particular spot. As it turns out, the Chesapeake Bay region provides the perfect wintering habitat for Sanderlings. The sandy beaches and mudflats along the bay offer an abundant supply of invertebrates, such as worms, mollusks, and crustaceans, which make up the bulk of their diet.

But why do Sanderlings choose to winter here instead of staying in their breeding grounds in the Arctic? Well, the answer lies in their unique life cycle. Sanderlings do not nest and breed in the Chesapeake Bay region. Instead, they journey all the way up to the high Arctic tundra, where they build their nests on rocky islands.

Once their chicks hatch, usually around late June or early July, the adult Sanderlings begin their southward migration. They make their way down the eastern coast of North America, stopping at various locations along the way to rest and refuel. The Chesapeake Bay region happens to be one of these crucial stopover sites.

The Sanderlings that I saw that day were likely on their way to their final wintering destination further south. It’s amazing to think that these tiny birds can fly thousands of miles to reach their wintering grounds, all while facing numerous challenges and obstacles along the way.

It’s worth noting that Sanderlings have an impressive lifespan for such a small bird. They can live for up to 13 years, which is quite remarkable considering the hazards they face during migration and the harsh conditions they endure in their Arctic breeding grounds.

Sanderlings spend their winters in the Chesapeake Bay region, taking advantage of the abundant food resources available along the sandy beaches and mudflats. While they may not breed here, the bay provides an important stopover site for these remarkable birds as they migrate south from their Arctic nesting grounds. So next time you’re walking along the shoreline in the winter, keep an eye out for these energetic little shorebirds and marvel at their incredible journey.