White-rumped sandpiper (Calidris fuscicollis)—Helen Cruickshank—The National Audubon Society Collection/Photo Researchers

Any of numerous shorebirds (family Scolopacidae) found either breeding or wintering nearly worldwide. Sandpipers, 6–12 in. (15–30 cm) long, have a moderately long bill and legs, long, narrow wings, and a fairly short tail. Their plumage has a complicated “dead-grass” pattern of browns, buffs, and blacks above, white or cream below. They run along ocean and inland beaches and mudflats, picking up insects, crustaceans, and worms and uttering thin, piping cries. Many species migrate in great flocks, from the Arctic to South America and New Zealand.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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