Monday, July 2, 2012

Sanderling Saga

The Sanderlings.  They are related to sandpipers.  We see them here, on the Central Coast, mainly in the winter. They are the little birds frantically running away from encroaching waves only to chase the receding wave back across the sand.  In the summer they are in their nesting grounds, the Canadian tundra.

The Sanderlings have one of the longest migrations of any bird.  Some Sanderlings migrate as far south as Tierra del Fuego. They travel along the Atlantic coast from Canada. Returning north they follow the Pacific coastline of South, Central, and North America. Except for when they are in their breeding grounds of the tundra the Sanderlings will be found almost exclusively on beaches.  

The Sanderling populations have decreased dramatically in the past 30 to 40 years. Total population has decreased by as much as 80% since the 1970's.  One of the most important stops for the Sanderling along its southern route is the Delaware Bay where their main source of nutrition is horseshoe crab eggs. Due to increased harvest of horseshoe crabs their food supply has been drastically reduced. This is devastating for these birds who arrive nearly starved along the shores of  Delaware Bay each spring. Development of beachfront property and the draining of wetlands also have a critical effect on Sanderling populations.

All shorebirds are impacted by the loss of habitat and the contamination of water and food supplies by the over use of high nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides.  What may not seem as obvious is that the use of these fertilizers and pesticides in areas that aren't near the coast can still negatively impact shorebird populations.  Effected ground water seeps into streams and rivers which eventually empty into the oceans. 
We all can take the time to explore more eco-friendly options in home gardens and dispose of pesticides responsibly.  It really has to be us, there's not a lot of time left for passing on the responsibility.

In bocca al lupo.  m & v


  1. What beautiful markings the Sanderlings wear.
    I just picked up some delicious organic fruit and veggies at the farmers' market this afternoon in the Barnyard. We must all do everything we can to save Mother Earth.

  2. Yes we do, and some things can be so simple. m & v