Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus Click to enlarge image
Terek Sandpiper, Xenus cinereus Image: Purnell Collection
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
  • Classification
  • Size Range
    22 cm to 24 cm

Female Terek Sandpipers leave their breeding grounds to migrate in early July, before the males and juveniles, which leave later, mainly in August. Their estimated flight range is 3500 km - 4800 km.

What do Terek Sandpipers look like?


The Terek Sandpiper is a small dumpy sandpiper with short orange legs. The long slightly up-turned bill is orange at the base. The body is brownish-grey above and on the sides of the breast, and white below. The crown appears high, with a steep forehead. The flight is strong and direct, with flickering wings and a distinct white trailing edge is visible in flight. They roost in groups on the high tide, often with other waders and then spread out to feed.

Where do Terek Sandpipers live?


Terek Sandpipers are found on the coast in mangrove swamps, tidal mudflats and the seashore.


Terek Sandpipers are more common on the northern and eastern Australian coasts than in the south, but nowhere in large numbers. They breed mainly in Russia and Finland and migrate to coastal Africa, India, the Malayan peninsula and Australia.

What do Terek Sandpipers eat and how do they communicate?

Feeding and diet

Terek Sandpipers feed busily, walking briskly pecking at the surface or probing in shallow water, on soft wet intertidal mudflats. They eat crustaceans and insects, adding seeds, molluscs and spiders in their breeding grounds. They feed at both high and low tides.


When flying, calls 'twit-wit-wit-wit' rising slightly in pitch for each syllable.

What are Terek Sandpipers breeding behaviours?

Breeding Behaviour/s

The Terek Sandpiper breeds in marshland in valleys in the northern forests and Arctic tundra, often with other waders. As well as displaying in the air, the males spend time on the ground, singing loudly, with fluttering wings and tail raising. Males also defend the nest while the female incubates. The nest is shallow, lined with grass and located in the open or in short grass.

Breeding Season: May to August.


A migratory species, moving south from breeding grounds in Eurasia from July. They are found in Australia from August to March or April, with most remaining on the northern coast. They appear to show strong fidelity to one site, returning there each year. Small numbers remain in Australia over winter, mainly first year birds.

Economic/social impacts

Threats to waders such as the Terek Sandpiper on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (the migration route to Australia) include economic and social pressures such as wetland destruction and change, pollution and hunting.