Species Profile

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Scientific Name: Tryngites subruficollis
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern

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Image of Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper Photo 1



The Buff-breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) is a medium-sized shorebird with a buff-coloured face and underparts, and brown to black speckling on its wings and back. It is the only North American shorebird with a lek mating system, in which males congregate to display to females during courtship. (Updated 2017/08/10)


Buff-breasted Sandpiper Photo 4


Distribution and Population

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper breeds in the Arctic regions of eastern Russia, Alaska, Yukon and northcentral Canada. It winters in South America, mainly in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. About 87% of the species’ North American range occurs in Canada, where it breeds along the mainland north coast of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Adults migrate south to the wintering grounds through the North American interior, while juveniles tend to spread out to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts before heading south. Migration north to the breeding grounds is concentrated through the central parts of the United States and Canada, with a large proportion of the population passing through Alberta and Saskatchewan. (Updated 2017/08/10)



The breeding grounds are exclusively within tundra habitats. On migration and during the winter, Buff-breasted Sandpipers occur primarily in grassland habitats. Prior to European settlement in North America, stop-over habitat for migrants was primarily native short-grass prairie that was grazed by bison. Most such habitat has since been cultivated. Nowadays, the birds primarily use a variety of human-altered sites for stopovers, such as crop fields, golf courses, airport runways, sod farms, and pastures grazed by domestic livestock. Buff-breasted Sandpipers winter mainly in the South American Pampas, where livestock grazing maintains their preferred short-grass habitat structure. Wintering populations also are commonly found next to coastal lagoons. (Updated 2017/08/10)



Males and females arrive simultaneously on the Arctic breeding grounds from late May through mid-June. Males perform courtship displays on territories to attract females. Females lay a single clutch of four eggs in a nest on the ground. Most birds depart for the wintering grounds by early September. The diet of Buff-breasted Sandpipers includes terrestrial insects and spiders, aquatic invertebrates and plant seeds. (Updated 2017/08/10)



Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation are likely the primary threats to Buff-breasted Sandpiper populations. In the Arctic, breeding habitat overlaps areas of mineral, coal, oil and gas development. Throughout much of the rest of the migration and winter range, native grasslands have largely disappeared, and the species has switched to using human-altered habitats. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper’s regular use of croplands may expose the birds to agrochemicals, while changing agricultural practices (e.g., altered grazing regimes, switch to no-till farming) may decrease food availability and limit suitable habitat. In addition, the development of wind energy projects along the North American migratory route could have negative consequences for the species. Climate change may impact Buff-breasted Sandpipers in several ways. Northward advancement of shrub cover will dramatically alter its tundra breeding habitat. Rising sea levels and increased rainfall could flood the birds’ coastal habitat on both breeding and wintering grounds. More frequent and intense storms could increase mortality of juveniles migrating along the Atlantic coast. Climate change is also expected to cause more frequent and severe droughts in the Canadian Prairies and the U.S. Great Plains, which may negatively impact wetland and seasonal pond habitat and lead to decreased food availability during migration. (Updated 2017/08/10)



Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.



PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

7 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Buff-breasted Sandpiper (2013)

    The Canadian Arctic supports about 87% of the North American breeding range of this shorebird, and about 75% of its global population. The species was once common and perhaps even abundant historically, but it suffered severe declines stemming from intensive market hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s. By the 1920s, it was thought to be at the brink of extinction. Its population has grown since hunting was banned in North America, but numbers remain much lower than those before hunting began. There is evidence for population decline in recent decades, and many conservation organizations consider the species to be of concern throughout its range. However, this species is difficult to monitor effectively, and data necessary to estimate population trends are currently lacking. Outside the breeding period, loss and degradation of its specialized grassland habitat, both on its wintering grounds in South America and along its migration routes, are believed to pose the most significant threats.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (2016)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of assessments conducted under subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (2017)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of the Species at Risk Act, makes the annexed Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2011-2012 (2012)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following: Extinct: 1 Extirpated: 4 Endangered: 29 Threatened: 10 Special Concern: 15 Data Deficient: 2 Not at Risk: 6 Total: 67 Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – December 2012 (2013)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. Consultation paths.