Common sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Common sandpiper

Scientific name: Actitis hypoleucos
The Common sandpiper breeds along rivers, and by lakes, reservoirs and lochs in upland Scotland, Northern England and Wales. It can be spotted as a passage migrant at many inland wetlands across the UK.

Species information


Length: 19-21cm
Wingspan: 40cm
Weight: 50g
Average lifespan: 8 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


The Common sandpiper is a small wading bird which breeds along fast-moving rivers and near lakes, lochs and reservoirs in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Northern England. Wintering birds may be spotted along the south coast, but passage migrants can be seen at the edge of freshwater lakes or on estuaries during spring and autumn. It bobs up and down when standing, known as 'teetering', and has a distinctive, stiff-winged flight.

How to identify

Sandpipers can be a difficult group of birds to get to grips with. Common sandpipers are green-brown above, with a bright white belly. They display a brown rump and strong white wingbars when they fly. They are most similar to Wood sandpipers and Green sandpipers, but are smaller and shorter-legged than both. Common sandpipers have a short, straight, grey bill and green legs.


Nests around the edge of lakes and large rivers in the uplands, but can be seen on spring and autumn migration at inland wetlands throughout the country. The small wintering population can be found along the south coast.

Did you know?

The closest relative of the Common sandpiper is an American species, the Spotted sandpiper, which looks virtually identical except it has thrush-like, black spots on its belly during the summer. The two species are rarely found together, however.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.