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Calidris alba (Sanderling) 

Drietoonstrandloper [Afrikaans]; Drieteenstrandloper [Dutch]; Bécasseau sanderling [French]; Sanderling [German]; Pilrito-sanderlingo [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

Calidris alba (Sanderling)  Calidris alba (Sanderling) 
Sanderling, California, USA. [photo Jeff Poklen ©] Sanderlings foraging, California, USA. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in northern Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Siberia, after which it disperses across the world's coasts and islands. It is common along the entire southern African coastline, especially along the west coast, while recorded fairly regularly in wetlands further inland. It generally prefers sandy beaches, but it also occurs at rocky shores, lagoons and bare edges of wetlands.

Distribution of Sanderlling 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

Intercontinental migrant, with most southern African birds arriving in small flocks from early September, all originating from breeding grounds in Siberia and Greenland. They eventually depart from the region in mid May.


It mainly eats invertebrates, supplemented with small fish, doing most of its foraging in flocks during the falling tide, pecking the soil or plucking food items from rocks. It mainly forages on moist sand to avoid confrontation with White-fronted plovers, who often chase other birds out of their territories. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • Gastrosaccus psammodytes (Surf mysids)
    • Donax serra (White mussel)
    • Talorchestia capensis (Beach hoppers)
    • Fucellia capensis (kelp fly)
    • amphipods
    • isopods
    • polychaetes
    • mysid shrimps
    • gastropods
    • pycnogonids
    • bivalves
    • insect larvae
    • mussels
  • Vertebrates
    • Muraenoclinnus dorsalis (Nose-stripe klipfish)
  • Plants
    • seeds of Zostera capensis (Cape eelgrass)


Not threatened.


  • 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.