©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION


©Neil Aldridge


©Fergus Gill/2020VISION


Scientific name: Calidris alba
The Sanderling scampers about the waves looking for marine crustaceans, fish and even jellyfish to eat. It visits the UK in winter from its Arctic breeding grounds, but can also be seen as it passes through on migration during spring and autumn.

Species information


Length: 20-21cm
Wingspan: 42cm
Weight: 59g
Average lifespan: 7 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

August to May


The Sanderling is a medium-sized sandpiper. It feeds in small flocks at the edge of the tide, scampering back and forth after the waves, looking for insects, crustaceans, worms, fish and even jellyfish. Sanderlings breed in the Arctic, visiting the UK in the winter and passing through on migration during spring and autumn. The distance they travel varies, but individuals have been known to make 32,000 km annual round-trips to their breeding and wintering grounds.

How to identify

Similar to the Knot, the Sanderling is smaller and paler, with a dark patch on the shoulder and with black, rather than green, legs. It is best recognised by its behaviour, scampering about on the beach rather than walking and probing in the mud. In the winter, it is silvery-grey, almost white, with a bright white belly.


A common winter visitor to our coasts; best looked for on long, sandy beaches.

Did you know?

Sanderlings only have three toes on each foot; they are missing the hind toe, which gives them a distinctive running action - a bit like a clockwork toy.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a Living Seas vision, where coastal and marine wildlife thrives alongside the sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.