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Sanderlings Are Arctic Breeders with a Love for Sandy Beaches

Sanderling birds have unusual lives. Their breeding habitat is the Arctic tundra, but they hate the cold!

These birds, known by the scientific name Calidris Alba, are small and travel in flocks called grains. Sanderlings in the summer have a gray color, which helps them blend in on sandy beaches. In the winter, they have brown feathers but usually keep their gray feathers too. These birds have very few predators, but among them are seagulls, owls, foxes, and even wolves.

Adults are seven to eight inches long with a wingspan of 14 inches. Their legs are thin, black, and very fast. This is useful when they run to get food that waves have brought into the sand, a process called wave chasing. Their long beaks are used to peck food out of the wet sand. Sanderlings can eat crabs, berries, roots, and almost anything they can find. However, when they migrate in the winter, they eat more seafood.

The birds breed on every continent except Antarctica. During the breeding season, the pairs communicate by croaking. During the non-breeding seasons, these birds make a very squeaky chatter. Female Sanderlings build the nest alone without the help of males.

The females lay an average of four eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them for about a month. When the eggs hatch, the babies learn from their parents and become independent after three weeks. Their average lifespan is less than 13 years.

The Sanderlings can be found on almost every sandy beach worldwide, and maybe if you're lucky enough, you can see a flock of them.

[Source: Cornell Lab; Smithsonian's National Zoo ]

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