Mobile bird identification
Bird Field Guide

In winter the Sanderling has a pearly-grey back and bright white underside. It has black legs and a black bill. It also has a black shoulder patch which is not always visible.


Calidris alba
Waders Menu
In winter the Sanderling is by far the whitest wader to visit the UK. A particularly active little bird which runs along sandy beaches at great speed moving in and out with the waves.
Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Scolopacidae

Genus:  Calidris

Species: C. alba
The Sanderling is one of the most active waders, running in and out with waves on the beach and rarely standing still, unless roosting at high tide.
This image shows typical winter plumage, note the overall pale appearance. The Sanderling is one of the whitest waders in winter.
Also pale in flight the Sanderling is often seen flying in small groups along sandy beaches.
Thanks to:
Adult Male & Female (Winter)
Thanks to: (Modified)
Thanks to: (Modified)
Adult Male & Female (Summer)
Breeding distribution
Probably breeding
Probably breeding
Confirmed to be breeding in this area
Confirmed breeding sites
Breeding distribution of the Sanderling
General distribution:
Mostly breeds outside of Europe in Northern tundra such as Siberia. The only confirmed breeding sight in Europe is on Svalbard islands, Norway. In Winter it moves South and can be found on most European coastlines. Some none breeding birds stay South and can be seen regularly in summer plumage in places such as the Western Isles in Scotland.
Usually nests on Arctic tundra. In winter the Sanderling is nearly always found on sandy beaches.
Flock of Sanderling in winter plumage flying and feeding. (Spot the Dunlin in summer plumage mixed with them)
Note the strong contrast between the chestnut upper breast and the white lower breast. Also note how the legs and bill are jet black.
The Sanderling's summer plumage is much darker than the light winter plumage. The dark upper chestnut colour contrasts sharply with the birds bright white underside.
Thanks to: (Modified)
Sanderling in winter plumage identification
Bright white underside
*Pearly-grey back and wings

*Black legs

*Dark shoulder patch
Sanderling flying in winter plumage
Sanderling flying in from below
Sanderling flying in winter plumage
Sanderling in winter plumage
Flock of Sanderling in winter plumage flying
Flock of Sanderling in winter plumage feeding
Sanderling in summer plumage identification
Black bill
*Blackish & chestnut marbled back
*Dark shoulder patch

*Black legs

Bright white underside
Sanderling in summer plumage flying
Chestnut, streaked brown head, neck and breast
Sanderling in summer plumage
*Key ID points
* Donates key ID points
*No hind claw
Thanks to:
*Pale grey head
Straight black bill