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Actitis hypoleucos (Common sandpiper) 

Gewone ruiter [Afrikaans]; Uthuthula (also applied to Wood sandpiper) [Xhosa]; Koe-koe-lemao (generic term for sandpiper), Seealemabopo-hetlatšoeu [South Sotho]; N'wantshekutsheku (generic term for sandpiper or plover) [Tsonga]; Oeverloper [Dutch]; Chevalier guignette [French]; Flußuferläufer [German]; Maçarico-das-rochas [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Scolopacidae

Actitis hypoleucos (Common sandpiper)   

Common sandpiper. [photo Callie de Wet ©]


Distribution and habitat

Breeds in a broad area between 30-56° North and from western Europe to Japan, heading south in the non-breeding season to Australia and much of sub-Saharan Africa , from southern Mauritania to Eritrea south to southern Africa. Here it is common in northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique and the eastern half and the western coast of South Africa, while more scarce in Namibia and central South Africa. It can occupy any type of aquatic habitat, generally preferring rivers, streams, dam shores, estuaries, tidal creeks in salt marshes, mangroves and filtration tanks of sewage works, which it especially favours.

Distribution of Common sandpiper in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Non-breeding migrant to southern Africa, with adults leaving Europe in late June or early July after which the juveniles follow them in the period from July-September. The first adults arrive in southern Africa in the second week of July and are widespread in the region by August, while the first juveniles arrive in late August and are common by September-October. Both adults and juveniles usually leave in the period from late January to April, rarely staying until May.


It mainly eats invertebrates, especially insects, doing most of its foraging by walking slowly with its head held almost horizontally, plucking prey from the ground or low vegetation. It also gleans insects from the backs of Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) and Hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibius). The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • insects
    • spiders
    • crustaceans
    • molluscs
    • annelid worms
  • Vertebrates
    • small frogs and tadpoles
    • small fish
  • Plants
    • seeds


Not threatened, in fact common and globally widespread.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.