Sandpipers are a large family of shore birds that can be very interesting and fun to watch. This family includes many species of birds, some that are actually called sandpipers, as well as some called snipe, curlew and other names. Most eat vertebrates they pick out of the mud and soil. These waders have long bodies and legs, as well as narrow wings. Most have narrow bills, too, but otherwise their form can vary. They nest in open areas and defend their territory with some of the most amazing aerial displays you will ever see. Most have dull plumage, with brown, gray or streaked patterns, but telling them apart is not hard. Below are just a few of these funny bird you may see while bird watching in Houston, Texas.
Spotted Sandpiper. This is one of the most common sandpipers you can see while bird watching in Houston, Texas. Look for its speckled breast, distinctive eyestripe and orange bill. It also walks with a constant bobbing along the shores of creeks and ponds, as well as along mudflats. It is most common from August through April in Houston, Texas.
Solitary Sandpiper. This sandpiper can be found at freshwater ponds, stream edges, and even in ditches. Look for its greenish colored legs and prominent eyering when bird watching in Houston, Texas during the spring and fall. This is a small shorebird, with brown rings that have little white dots on them.
Upland Sandpiper. Prairies and fields are the best places to look for this sandpiper while bird watching in Houston, Texas. It’s a more common visitor in the spring than in the fall. Identify it while bird watching from its small head and large, dark eyes. Also look for the brown streaking on their light head and neck. This sandpiper likes to sit on fence posts, keeping an eye on things, and can be found foraging in tall grass in Houston, Texas.
Semipalmated Sandpiper. Look for these very small sandpipers while bird watching on the open flats of Houston, Texas during the spring and fall. They have black legs and black, stout bills. Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary is a good bird watching spot to find them. You will find these sandpipers foraging in brackish water, usually on the edge of the water rather than knee deep. This will help you distinguish them while bird watching from the Western Sandpiper, which also has a slightly longer bill and legs than the Semipalmated Sandpiper.
Western Sandpiper. This sandpiper is common in the fall in Houston, Texas and abundant in the spring and winter. Look for it while bird watching on open flats, especially in December and January when they can number in the thousands. This sandpiper has dark legs and a dark bill, as well as a rust-colored crown. Bolivar Flats is the best place to find them while bird watching in Houston, Texas, where they first begin arriving in early July.
Least Sandpiper. Common in Houston, Texas in spring and fall, look for this sandpiper while bird watching along the coastal flats, as well as in marshy ponds and inland wetlands. This is the smallest sandpiper you will see in Houston, Texas; recognize it from its black bill, which is slightly downturned, as well as it greenish legs. They prefer grassy areas, too. Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary is a good place to spot them while bird watching, as is Arthur Storey Park in the city.
White-rumped Sandpiper. Wet fields and the marshy edges of mudflats are the best spots to look for these sandpipers while bird watching in Houston, Texas. You’ll find them in small numbers here in the spring, from late April through May, along the Upper Texas Coast. They may be named the White-rumped Sandpiper, but their rumps are actually dark. The white feathers at the base of these sandpipers tails that you may see while bird watching is actually their upper tail coverts.
Baird’s Sandpiper. You can distinguish this sandpiper while bird watching from its long wingtips which extend past its tail. It looks similar to the White-rumped sandpiper but it has a darker, buffy brown plumage. You will find them in Houston, Texas in small numbers during the spring and fall migrations in wet fields, marshes, and beaches.
Pectoral Sandpiper. Pectoral Sandpipers are grouped as grasspipers, which are sandpipers which prefer marshes and prairies. Other grasspipers include Upland Bairds, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Pectoral Sandpipers have the same coloring as Least Sandpipers; the Pectoral is about twice the size of the Least and has a more elongated shape. These sandpipers have dark, streaky breasts and white bellies. They are more common in the spring than in the fall in Houston, Texas.
Stilt Sandpiper. Try bird watching along coastal marshes is you are looking for this bird. This sandpiper can be found in Houston, Texas year round, but it is more common in the spring and fall. Look for their tails, high in the air, as they probe for food with their curved bills. They also have white rumps. These sandpipers fly in very large groups.