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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Baird's Sandpiper @ Lake St. Clair Metropark. Sept. 2012.

Baird's Sandpiper is a passage migrant through the US. Like many other sandpipers, Baird's breeds in the Arctic and winters in South America. It's main migration flyway runs through the middle of the US and it is a migrant in a hurry -- known to cover 9,000 miles in 5 weeks.

A frenetic feeder, it is hard to get this sandpiper still in a picture. Its also has a tendency to crouch close to the ground when sensing danger which makes it appear shorter than it really is.

Baird's Sandpiper is a calidrid and in size, slightly smaller than a Sanderling. Round, staring eyes, a streaked breast and long wings extending past the tail distinguish this sandpiper from other species. This latter feature is also found exclusively in the white-rumped sandpiper which it closely resembles.

Shown here are some size comparisons -- much smaller than a Pectoral Sandpiper [left]; slightly smaller than a sanderling [lower right]. The front-view of a Baid's shows the a sharp transition from the streaking on the breast to a white belly; much like a Pectoral; but lacks the yellow legs and is much smaller. The photograph below shows all three sandpipers juxtapositioned which makes their size differences much more apparent [from the left: Baird's, Pectoral, and Sanderling].

While not commonly seen, Barid's sandpiper population trends are stable and hence it is rated as "Least Concern".

The sandpiper is named after one of the stalwarts of American Ornithology, Spencer Baird. A contemporary of Audubon, Spencer Baird was the first curator of the Smithsonian Institute.

There are many species named in honor of Spencer Baird and this charming Sandpiper does a worthy job of ensuring that his name lives on.

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