The Common Sandpiper is one of the world widest-ranging bird species. Their breeding range encompasses almost all of Europe and northern Asia, stretching from Spain to the Russian Far East. During the northern winter these birds then migrate to southern climes, spanning from sub-Saharan Africa to Australia and the islands of Oceania. The IUCN considers them to be of least concern and estimate a total population of at least 2.6-million adult birds. During our summer they can be found virtually anywhere in South Africa where suitable wetland habitat is found, though much more rarely in the dry north-western parts of the country than elsewhere, with the first birds arriving in July already and most departing again by the end of April.
Common Sandpipers inhabit a very wide range of water-associated habitats, from sewerage works and farm dams to pristine wetlands and estuaries. Their diet includes invertebrates and small vertebrates, like tadpoles, and occasionally fine seeds plucked from the mud and shallow water. They’ll even pluck leeches from the backs of hippos and crocodiles! While feeding they’re usually solitary or in small groups, though larger numbers congregate to roost.
Adult Common Sandpipers have a wingspan of about 40cm, measure about 20cm in length, and weigh approximately 47g.