Washington State Recovery Plan for the Upland Sandpiper
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Washington State Recovery Plan for the Upland Sandpiper

Category: Threatened and Endangered Species - Recovery Plans

Date Published: February 1995

Number of Pages: 68

Author(s): Kelly R. McAllister


The upland sandpiper breeds over a broad geographical range in North America, but is rare west of the Rocky Mountains. Nesting has been reported in scattered areas in western Montana, southern British Columbia, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. Upland sandpipers winter in South America, primarily in Argentina. General abundance in North America has increased since market hunting was banned early in this century, though populations are still far from pre-market hunting levels.

Upland sandpipers are associated with grasslands. Though historically associated with prairies and meadows, they have become established in many agricultural areas where grain crops , alfalfa, and grazed pastures predominate. In the eastern United States, airports often provide suitable habitat. Nesting occurs in areas where grasses or grasses and forbs provide cover averaging between 10 and 40 cm (4-16 in) in height. Foraging, brood rearing and loafing areas are usually more sparsely vegetated, including heavily grazed pastures, recently cut alfalfa or corn fields and open prairie.

In Washington, upland sandpipers have been rare throughout this century. From the late 1950's to present, the east Spokane Valley has received the most attention because birds were found to be present during most years. Small numbers have been observed there each year and sandpipers have nested there at least twice. Numbers, however, have dwindled. During 1989, only three individuals were seen. Two sandpipers were present during the 1993 September migration. Surveys conducted during 1994 failed to detect any sandpipers. The areas in the east Spokane Valley once frequented by sandpipers have been steadily altered by housing developments, gravel pits, and changes in vegetative cover. This degradation of the habitat may be responsible for the loss of nesting birds. However, declining numbers are also apparent in Oregon where habitat change is less severe. This suggests that external factors may be contributing to a region-wide decline.

Recovery of upland sandpiper numbers to a level at which the species can be considered secure will require management of habitat on a broad landscape level and establishment of nesting birds in landscapes where they are not currently present. Suitable areas to manage for upland sandpipers need to be identified. In the near term, habitat enhancement and surveys are suggested as a means to test the effectiveness of habitat improvement techniques for attracting colonizers to Washington State. As long as upland sandpipers continue to be seen in eastern Washington, including migrant visitors, the attraction of colonizing nesters will be considered a viable option. Captive-rearing and translocation of birds will also be considered to help achieve recovery objectives.

Recovery objectives for downlisting to threatened status are a five-year average of at least 20 May-census adults and secure nesting and foraging habitat comprised of at least 10 sites at least 100 ha (247 ac) in size. The objectives for delisting are a five-year average of 50 May-census adults and secure habitat comprised of at least 25 sites at least 100 ha in size.