Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2003-
[Transcribed from a CFO sight record form]

Common name:

White-rumped Sandpiper

Scientific name: Calidris fuscicollis
Date: May 27, 2003
Time: approx. 4:50 PM to 5:00 PM
Length of time observed: approx. ten minutes
Number: one
Age: adult alternate
Sex: unknown
Location: Southeasternmost sewage pond along US 191 south of Blanding, Utah
County: San Juan
Distance to bird: approximately 30 yards at closest approach. (Andrew Spencer was considerably closer).
Optical equipment: Nikon Fieldscope ED with 20-45x zoom eyepiece.
Weather: Weather was partly cloudy.
Light Conditions: The bird was to the south of me, and the sun was to my right, but it was behind clouds during most of the observation.
Detailed description of bird: The bird was a largish Calidris sandpiper, attenuated towards the back with long wings. The dark (gray-green?) legs were very long for a “peep”, but not long enough for a Stilt Sandpiper or yellowlegs. The bill was medium-long, about the length of the head, slightly drooped at the tip but not really blob-ended. The culmen looked straight but the lower mandible seemed concave in silhouette. In sum, the bill was very similar to that of a Baird’s Sandpiper. The bill was dark, with a reddish stripe along the base of the lower mandible. The head was rather flat.
Plumage: The underparts of the bird were white, heavily marked with black spots/streaks down the breast to a sharply demarcated line across the center of the breast; along the flanks, the black marks extended farther, approximately to the leg. The upperparts (back & wings) were brown with fairly large, distinct blackish spotting. The head showed darker crown and auricular patches, perhaps with a hint of chestnut or light brown. All these patches extended forward to meet the bill. In flight, the white rump was clearly visible, contrasting with the back and the tail.  [see photo]
Song or call & method of delivery: I heard some high chirpy sandpiperish sounds which may have come from this bird.
Behavior: It flushed once as Andrew approached it and flew all around the pond, but soon returned nearly to the same spot. Its flight was fast and erratic. It neither fed nor preened, either before or after its circuit of the pond; it just stood there looking at us.
Habitat: The bird was found sitting on the rocky (west) shore of a fairly deep sewage pond. It flushed once as Andrew approached it and flew all around the pond, but returned nearly to the same spot. It neither fed nor preened, either before or after its circuit of the pond.
Similar species and
how were they eliminated:
The bird looked large for a Least Sandpiper, and it lacked the rusty patches and white streaking I’d expect on the upperparts of that bird at this time of year. Furthermore, the legs were dark. The bill shape, long wings, upperparts coloration, and streaking extending down the flanks also eliminated Semipalmated and Western Sandpipers. Baird’s Sandpiper was the closest match in size and shape, including bill shape, but the upperparts, head pattern and streaked flanks were still wrong. All the above species were definitively ruled out by the white rump on the flying bird.
Stilt Sandpiper shares several of the characteristics of this bird; however, the bird was not slender enough to be a Stilt, and its neck was not long enough. The bill was too straight for Stilt, the crown and auricular patches were not rusty enough, and the underparts streaking not extensive enough. Finally, the white rump, contrasting with darker tail and back, is not consistent with Stilt Sandpiper.
Previous experience with this & similar species: I started birding in South Dakota, where White-rumped Sandpiper is a common spring migrant. I have seen many dozens of them in the past two years alone. Already this spring I have seen perhaps thirty White-rumpeds in South Dakota, and just two days before finding the bird at Blanding I had had the opportunity to observe another at Willcox in Southeast Arizona, in direct comparison with a Baird’s.
List books, guides, recordings, or other sources consulted and how these influenced your identification (during and after observation):
References consulted: I consulted Sibley after the fact.
Description from: notes made after observation
Observer: Nathan Pieplow (and Andrew Spencer)
Observer's address: 4745-B White Rock Circle
City: Boulder State: CO Zip: 80301
Observer's e-mail address: Telephone: (303) 245-8421 email:
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: May 30, 2003
Additional material: Photos were taken [one photo was submitted] by Andrew Spencer (
Additional comments: