Each year, millions of shorebirds migrate in waves from wintering grounds along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts to nesting grounds in Alaska and northern Canada– some traveling thousands of miles every year.  Because these birds travel such long distances in large concentrated groups, they face some unique conservation challenges.  They need specific habitats that often span international boundaries for three important life stages throuhgout each year: breeding, wintering (non-breeding), and migration pit-stops.  They need those habitats to be able to support thier large consentrations as well.  If the health of shorebird pit stops or their breeding or wintering grounds are altered we see this reflected in their populations.

Although our project tracks all shorebirds found in our study areas, Dunlin and Western Sandpipers are focal indicator species for this study.  Our partners, united through shorebird conservation across international boundaries, are coordinating to collect data on these species throughout their range to get a better picture of how their populations are doing now under current threats and devise strategies on how to conserve them and their habitats in a climate-changed future.


Both Species Share:

  • Widespread distribution
  • Abundant population, but thought to be declining
  • Tidal flat/wetland- dependent
  • Substantial dependence on the Copper River Delta, a vital shorebird migratory stopover site
  • Similar ecological niche


Focal Shorebird Species Snapshots


Western Sandpiper (Calidirs mauri)

Identification: 6.5˝ – Bill slightly drooping.Black legs. Young in early fall show reddish scapulars(“shoulders”). Nonbreeding: Gray upperparts, whitish breast and underparts.

Diet: Marine invertebrates

Western Sandpiper on Cornell’s All About Birds




Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

Identification: 8.5˝ – Fairly long, drooping bill. Blackish legs. Nonbreeding plumage dull brownish gray, whitish belly.

Diet: Invertebrates. Occasional plant materials.

Dunlin on Cornell’s All About Birds