sharp-tailed sandpiper

The Sharp-tailed sandpiper is the eight most numerous Arctic wader to reach New Zealand with up to 200 birds arriving each summer.

The sharp-tailed sandpiper breeds in the high Arctic, in north eastern Siberia between the Lena and Kolyma rivers. Most birds migrate to New Guinea and Australia but some reach New Zealand, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji.

They are usually to be found roosting on shellbanks with wrybills, stints, knots and curlew sandpipers.

Most of the Arctic waders travel to and from New Zealand via the western edge of the Pacific, on the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, making coastal stopovers to rest and feed along the way. The staging sites are vital for the birds to be able to continue their journeys and return home to breed again. Pressure from expanding human populations at many sites has led to a steady deterioration of the birds’ habitat. A combination of housing and industrial development, pollution, land reclamation on mudflats, changes to water flows and increased risk from predators at these stopping points has meant that fewer birds can feed and rest before the next stage of the journey. The result has been a decline in bird populations.

Several international organisations have attempted to protect some waders’ habitats along the course of flyways such as the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. So far, six New Zealand sites were included in the Ramsar Convention as Wetlands of International Importance: the Firth of Thames, Kopuatai Peat Dome, Whangamarino, Manawatu Estuary, Farewell Spit, and Waituna Lagoon.

sharp-tailed sandpiper
Sub Species:

Other common names:  — 

Tringa acuminata

Description:  — 

Native bird

22 cm., 60 gr., A medium small rchly speckled brown wader, rufous crown, slightly down curved bill, yellowish green legs, white eyebrow.

Where to find:  — 

Regular summer visitor to NZ, tidals flats, brackish pools, and margins of coastal lakes, mainly at Firth of Thames, Lake Ellesmere, Awarua Bay, Manwatu Estuary.

Youtube video  — 

Sharp-tailed sandpiper

Poetry:  — 


The roaring alongside he takes for granted,
and that every so often the world is bound to shake.
He runs, he runs to the south, finical, awkward,
in a state of controlled panic, a student of Blake.

The beach hisses like fat. On his left, a sheet
of interrupting water comes and goes
and glazes over his dark and brittle feet.
He runs, he runs straight through it, watching his toes.

–Watching, rather, the spaces of sand between them
where (no detail too small) the Atlantic drains
rapidly backwards and downwards. As he runs,
he stares at the dragging grains.

The world is a mist. And then the world is
minute and vast and clear. The tide
is higher or lower. He couldn't tell you which.
His beak is focussed; he is preoccupied,

looking for something, something, something.
Poor bird, he is obsessed!
The millions of grains are black, white, tan, and gray
mixed with quartz grains, rose and amethyst.

— Elizabeth Bishop

Illustration description: — 


Ibis, 1893.

Chris Gibbins’ Birds of the World on Postage Stamps

Reference(s): — 


Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Readers Digest Complete Book of NZ Birds, 1985.

Oliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.

Page date & version: — 


Wednesday, 4 June 2014; ver2009v1


©  2005    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.