John Chardine sent some lovely pictures of Semipalmated Sandpipers, and even some scientific references! Here are his notes:
One of the most spectacular yet little known wildlife spectacles in North America is the massing of 100,000s of the NA endemic Semipalmated Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla
) on the shores of the upper Bay of Fundy
in the fall. This occurs about 10km from my house. They come here to feed on Corophium volutator
, an amphipod
, which lives in the Bay of Fundy mud. The birds breed in the high Arctic and are on their way south to overwinter in Surinam, French Guiana and Brazil. The birds arrive weighing about 20 grams and double their mass in about 2-3 weeks feeding on the Corophium. This is the gas in their tank, which they use for a non-stop flight to northeast South America, taking them just 4 days to complete.
I find all of this amazing, including the short four-day flight from Canada to South America! Imagine the evolution behind that long-distance migration (as in all birds that make trips like that.)
First, here’s the Bay of Fundy so you can see where they foregather:
This is what an individual looks like- quite a bit smaller than an American Robin:
A resource like this attracts avian predators such as the Peregrine Falcon
A few refs:
Hicklin, P.W. 1987. The migration of shorebirds in the Bay of Fundy. Wilson Bulletin 99: 540-570.
Webber, J.-M. 2009. The physiology of long-distance migration: extending the limits of endurance metabolism. J. Exp. Biol. 212: 593-597.
Gratto-Trevor, C., R.I. Morrison, D. Mizrahi, D. B. Lank, P. Hicklin, and A.L. Spaans. 2012. Migratory connectivity of Semipalmated Sandpipers: winter distribution and migration routes of breeding populations.. Waterbirds 35: 83-95.
MacDonald, E.C., M.G. Ginn, and D.J. Hamilton. 2012. Variability in foraging behavior and implications for diet breadth among Semipalmated Sandpipers staging in the upper Bay of Fundy. Condor 114: 135-144.