Common Sandpiper Click to enlarge image
Common Sandpiper Image: Vijay Sonar
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • Classification
  • Size Range
    19 cm to 21 cm
AMS405/151 Common  Sandpiper
Scanned in 2005 for the Birds in the Backyard website Image: Jack Purnell
© Australian Museum

When feeding, the Common Sandpiper will pause to bob its head and teeter. When disturbed it will fly low preferably over water with down-curved, flicking wings. Sometimes it is called 'Bob'.


The Common Sandpiper is a small sandpiper with a rather long body and short legs. It is grey-brown above and white below, extending up in a pointed shape between the wing and the dark breast band.There is an indistinct white supercilium (eyebrow) and white eye-ring. The bill is dark grey with yellow at the base and the legs vary from greyish-olive to a yellowish-brown. When at rest, the long tail projects well beyond the tips of the wings. This species is also known as the Eurasian Sandpiper or Summer Snipe.


In Australia, the Common Sandpiper is found in coastal or inland wetlands, both saline or fresh. It is found mainly on muddy edges or rocky shores. During the breeding season in the northern hemisphere, it prefers freshwater lakes and shallow rivers.


The Common Sandpiper breeds in Europe and Asia. In Australasia it visits New Guinea and Australia, mainly in the north and west. It is less often seen in New Zealand.


The Common Sandpiper is migratory, breeding in Eurasia. Most of the western breeding populations winter in Africa and eastern breeding populations winter in Australia and south Asia to Melanesia. Some birds do not return to Eurasia to breed, but remain in the north of Australia throughout the Australian winter.

Feeding and diet

The Common Sandpiper hunts by day, eating small molluscs, aquatic and terrestrial insects. It is a very active bird and will follow its prey over rocks and has also been known to swim under water.


A 'tee-tee-tee' call; also a 'tittering' and trailing note call which is heard mainly during breeding.

Common Sandpiper
In Australia, the Common Sandpiper is found in coastal or inland wetlands, both saline or fresh. It is found mainly on muddy edges or rocky shores. Image: N Chaffer
© Australian Museum

Breeding behaviours

After returning to Eurasia, the female will build the nest alone but both sexes share incubation and care of the young. Common Sandpipers may have more than one brood per year. The nests can vary from an open shallow nest to a complex nest filled with leaves and grass and is often hidden in thick vegetation.

  • Breeding season: May to August
  • Clutch size: Three to five
  • Incubation: 22 days
  • Time in nest: 28 days

Conservation status

Like many migratory species, the Common Sandpiper faces many threats on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, such as loss of feeding grounds and hunting.


  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds) 1993. Handbook of Australian New Zealand And Antartic Birds Vol. 2: (Raptors To Lapwings). Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
  • Pringle, J.D. 1985. The Waterbirds of Australia. Angus and Robertson/National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
  • Higgins, P.J. and S.J.J.F. Davies (eds) 1996. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 3 (Snipe to Pigeons). Oxford University Press, Victoria.