Footprints in the Sand - Eco Trail
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Sanderling and a Ruddy Turnstone

Shore Birds

Sandpipers, plovers, and other shorebirds typically fly far north to breed in the summer, but some are here all year, and a few species nest on the island. Sandpipers generally have thin bills of varying lengths to probe for food. They can be seen patrolling the shore, digging in the sand at the water’s edge in search of small crustaceans and insects. Plovers have thicker, short bills and use the run, stop, and peck method to feed

Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstone and Willet © Dean McCallum

Ruddy Turnstone

Named for its feeding behavior, the Ruddy Turnstone can be seen using its short, slightly upturned bill flipping shells in the seaweed and other vegetation cast on shore. Look on the beach and fishing piers for this bird with its black bib and short, orange legs.


The Willet is a drab, mottled gray, long-legged sandpiper until it flies, when it shows its dramatic black and white wing pattern. It uses its long bill for digging in the wet sand at the edge of the wave line to feed.


Our most common small sandpiper is the Sanderling. This pale, sand-colored bird rapidly darts and scoots behind the receding surf in search of tiny mollusks and bivalves exposed by the wave’s action.

Snowy Plover

One shorebird that breeds here on the island is the Snowy Plover. A small plover, it blends in with the color of the sand. It usually inhabits the higher, dryer beach where it searches for tiny crustaceans and insects in the sand. Like other plovers, it runs and stops abruptly to capture its prey. Our help is needed to protect this threatened species during nesting season. Nesting areas are usually marked and monitored.