Calidris alba


The sanderling is a medium-sized sandpiper. Sanderlings feed in small flocks at the edge of the tide, scampering back and forth after the waves, looking for insects, crustaceans, worms, fish and even jellyfish. Sanderlings breed in the Artic, visiting the UK in the winter and passing through on migration during spring. The distance they travel varies, but individuals have been known to make 32,000 km annual round-trips to their breeding and wintering grounds.

How to identify

Similar to the knot, the sanderling is smaller and paler with a dark patch on the shoulder and with black, not green, legs. Best recognised by their behaviour, scampering about on the beach rather than walking and probing in the mud. In the winter they are silvery grey, almost white, with a bright white belly.

Where to find it

A common winter visitor to our coasts; best looked for on long, sandy beaches.


When to find it

  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May

How can people help

Although sanderlings are common birds, their coastal homes are under threat from changing land use and pollution. To keep populations of wading birds healthy, we need to ensure that our marine environment is managed properly. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives from coast to deep sea. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Calidris alba
Wading birds
Length: 20-21cm Wingspan: 42cm Weight: 59g Average Lifespan: 7 years
Conservation status