sandpiper, common name for some members of the large family Scolopacidae, small shore birds, including the snipe and the curlew. Sandpipers are wading birds with relatively long legs and long, slender bills for probing in the sand or mud for their prey—all sorts of small invertebrates. Their plumage is dull, usually streaked brown or gray above and buff with streaks or spots below. Most sandpipers are found in flocks on seacoasts throughout the Northern Hemisphere, but some frequent inland waters and marshes. Except for three species, all sandpipers nest on the ground. The three exceptions, the solitary sandpiper of the New World, and the green and wood sandpipers of the Old World, usually use the abandoned nests of other birds, and nest in trees. Sandpipers fly in irregular, large flocks, with no apparent leader. Among the North American sandpipers are the spotted and solitary sandpipers, found by streams; the Baird's, least, semipalmated, western, and white-rumped sandpipers, collectively called "peeps"; the red-backed sandpiper, or dunlin, and the greater and lesser yellow-legs, the willet, the knot, and the sanderling. Sandpipers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Charadriiformes, family Scolopacidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.