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Common Sandpiper
Actitis hypoleucos
Kedidi Pasir (Malay)

Common Sandpipers are easily identified by their habit of "teetering": constantly bobbing head and tail while on the ground, particularly when feeding. Their Malay name sounds like their call.

Common Sandpipers appears to be the least specialised and eat a wide variety of prey: from minute invertebrates to crustacea, worms, insects, spiders, centipedes. They may even scavenge from food scraps thrown out by people from boats or waterside activities.

Common Sandpipers feed restlessly and deliberately. They run along the water's edge, visually locating prey on the surface and not by probing in the mud. Thus they avoid soft mud and prefer to forage on rocky coastlines and breakwaters. They may even forage in concrete drainage ditches, and inland grasslands. They may also dash after prey that they spot some distance away. They may swim or dive after prey. Prey is often broken up into smaller bite-sized pieces, e.g., crabs.

Common Sandpipers are abundant but typically feed alone or in pairs, avoiding areas where other more gregarious species feed. But they roost in small groups of about 30 and migrate in flocks.
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Small (19-21cm), white eyebrows, brown side of breast, faintly barred wing coverts; bill short (2-3cm); legs short greenish.

Summer/ breeding: Arrow-shaped markings on the back.

Winter/non-breeding: Plain grey-brown back, faint bars on coverts.

Juvenile: Buff edges to feathers of brown parts.

Call: Described as a high-pitched descending piping see-see-see-see or twee-wee-wee in flight. Noisy when breeding or migrating, but feed silently.

In flight: Dark rump, barred white edges to dark tail, white diagonal wing bar meeting white trailing edges of primaries.

In flight



Photos from
Rosair and Cottridge
Fly with characteristic stiff wingbeats, alternating with short glides on down-turned wings, skimming over water.

Status in Singapore: Very common winter visitor throughout the island and offshore islands.

World distribution: Throughout the Old World, including Australia.

Classification: Family Scolopacidae. World 88 species, Singapore 34 species. From the Order Charadiiformes.
Breeding (April-July): Common Sandpipers breed in northern Eurasia from the Atlantic across the continent to Central Japan. They usually arrive at their breeding grounds in pairs. Their breeding song is a repeated rising kittie-needie. They prefer to nest near water, including stony and fast flowing rivers, small pools, lakes, sheltered sea coasts. Their nest is usually a shallow hollow on the ground, lined with leaves and plant stalks, under overhanging plants. But sometimes in trees or shrubs, and even on rafts of floating vegetation. 4 yellowish eggs with dark mottling or spots are laid. The male does most of the incubation. (21-23 days). As soon as they are dry, the hatchlings disperse away from the nest to hide among the surrounding vegetation. The male does most of the rearing.

Migration: Common Sandpipers migrate in small groups (rarely more than 200) or alone. They migrate well north, across much of the Old World including Australia, although few reach New Zealand. They are likely to be among the most numerous visiting waders but this is hard to confirm because they are widely dispersed in their winter grounds. They winter in a wide variety of wetlands that offer firm mud, sandy, rocky or grassy surfaces. These include mangroves, coastal dunes, estuaries, rivers, ponds, canals, reservoirs, rice fields.

Status and threats: The Common Sandpiper (for now) faces no serious threats and are the most widespread and adaptable of shorebirds. Perhaps it is because they can eat a wide range of food.

  To buy these references & others, visit
Nature's Niche
  • Morten Strange, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000 (p. 115: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
  • David R Wells, "The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)", Academic Press, 1999 (p. 238-240: identification, distribution map, habits, habitat, migration, conservation).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay names).
  • Lim Kim Seng and Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 57: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
  • G W H Davison and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995 (p. 37: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
  • Morten Strange and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing, 1993 (p. 122: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
  • Clive Briffett, "A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science Centre,1992 (p. 60: habit, habitat).
  • Christopher Hails, "Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 76: habits, description, status in Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
  • M W F Tweedie, "Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970 (p. 11: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
  • G C Madoc, "An Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947 (p. 43: description, habits, habitat).
  • James Hancock, "Herons and Egrets of the World: A photographic journey", Academic Press, 1999 (p. 28: identification, distribution, status, feeding, breeding, and photos of all life stages)
  • David Rosair and David Cottridge, "Photographic Guide to the Shorebirds of the World", Facts on File, 1995 (p. 118: photos of flight, adults-breeding and non-breeding, and juvenile).
By Ria Tan, 2001