Identification of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers

Published on 01 August 1980 in Main articles

Fig. 1. Group of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers Calidris acuminata (juveniles, front and rear; summer adult, right) and Pectoral Sandpipers C. melanotos (juvenile, left; autumn adult, centre) showing common jizz: flattish back, pot belly, short legs, long rear-end, and smallish head on normally short (though sometimes surprisingly long) neck. Note, however, tendency of Sharp-tailed to appear larger, more portly, shorter-necked and flatter-crowned (Bryan Bland)wo recent summer adult* Sharp-tailed Sandpipers Calidris acuminata were identified initially as Pectoral Sandpipers C. melanotos by observers with experience not only of Pectoral but also of juvenile Sharp-tailed. One, at Seal Sands, Cleveland, on 3rd September 1977, was watched for two hours by a dozen observers before it was identified as a Sharp-tailed. Another, on St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly, from 20th to 29th September 1974, although conveniently accompanied by three Pectorals, was overlooked until 25th, by which time the ‘four Pectorals’ had been observed by many birdwatchers (Flumm 1975). T h e first three British records, including two summer adults, were first identified as Pectorals, but the skins fortunately survived to be properlyassigned to Sharp-tailed half a century later (Riviere 1930). A summer adult at Bedford in 1961 was initially reported as a ‘peculiar Pectoral’ (I.J. Ferguson-Lees in litt.). It is clear that summer adult Sharp-tailed can be–and doubtless has been–overlooked. Fortunately, individuals in winter and juvenile plumage are more obviously different from Pectoral. This paper is concerned mainly with the field separation of the two species, rather than with the elimination of other waders, which is

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