Spots before my eyes – Spotted Sandpipers that is

Spotted Sandpiper in nonbreeding plumage - FloridaSpotted Sandpiper in nonbreeding plumage – Florida – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

Back in May I published a post titled Spot the Sandpiper on the Seawall and in that post I mentioned (or was it lamented) the fact that I hadn’t gotten images of them I felt I could be proud of in breeding plumage, well I did this past week while I was in Beaverhead County, Montana!

I photographed the Spotted Sandpiper above at Fort De Soto County Park, Florida back in January of 2009 on some rip rap in a lagoon. They were very approachable, I even had one fall asleep while I photographed it. But notice the clean white belly? That is because this bird was in nonbreeding plumage.

Spotted Sandpiper in breeding plumage - MontanaSpotted Sandpiper in breeding plumage – Montana – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Now take a gander at this Spotted Sandpiper I photographed last week along a creek in southwestern Montana and you’ll see why I had spots before my eyes! And it is not just the belly of the bird, there are even a few spots on its darker feathers. It was amusing to watch and photograph this Spotted Sandpiper and watch it bob its butt up and down and listen to its call which I don’t recall hearing on their wintering grounds. Because of their butt bobbing ways these sandpipers are also called teeter-tail, teeter-peep, jerk bird and tip-tail. Me; I often call them little butt bobbers.

The day before photographing this bird in the same area I heard an alarm call from a Spotted Sandpiper and then there was movement in the air as two Prairie Falcons were apparently both after the little shorebird but the falcons became aggressive towards each other and the sandpiper flew off. Having seen the Spotted Sandpiper there we went back the next day and that is when I photographed this one.

So I finally have images of the breeding plumage of this small shorebird that show the spots that gave this bird the name Spotted Sandpiper!


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. These are both beautiful shots! This sandpiper wears its spots well:)

  2. They are a hoot to watch for sure and such fast busy birds. I’m glad you got to see some of the scads we seem to have this year in MT!

  3. delightful photos..always love your work..

  4. Very interesting post. It amazes me how many different looks birds can take on as they mature. Nice images too, Mia.

  5. Lovely images Mia – I just saw one last week (non-breeding plumage), but not nearly as good a shot.

  6. pretty, lucky, little bird…nice shots…interesting changes in plumage. I wonder how log it takes to change over, acquire the spots…

  7. I’m surprised that the non-breeding ones look so like Common Sandpipers. Great to hear that the one you saw escaped being dinner!

  8. Beautiful spotted images.

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