Tuesday 19 October 2010


Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis). The even spangling of scaly fringes on the back tells us it's a juvenile. Valdecañas Reservoir, Cáceres. 15.10.10 (Ángel Sánchez).

On 15 October 2010 a juvenile Buff-Breasted Sandpiper (Tryngites subruficollis) was spotted at Valdecañas reservoir near El Gordo in the province of Cáceres. This is a first for Extremadura. The only observer was Ángel Sánchez, the bird proving impossible to find again in subsequent days.

The Buff-Breasted Sandpiper is classed as a rare vagrant in Spain. It is the third most frequent American vagrant wader after the Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotos) and the Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes). Up to 2007 a total of 42 sightings had been accepted, involving 46 different birds (Díes at al. 2009). Figures have not yet published for 2008 and 2009 but the autumn passage of 2010 is turning out to be extraordinary, with no fewer than 30 different birds recorded on September and October (Gutiérrez, 2010) . One possible cause might be the series of Atlantic storms in this period. Another notable feature of this year's records is that the birds have turned up in inland areas and even steppic habitat, whereas all pre-2003 records had been coastal (de Juana, 2006).

The Buff-Breasted Sandpiper is currently considered to be the only member of the Tryngites genus, although recent studies suggest that it might be very closely related to the small waders of the Calidris genus, and even includable therein (Thomas et al. 2004). It breeds on the arctic tundra of North America and northeast Siberia, wintering on the pampas of South America after migrating inland down the American continent (see map). The regular passage through western Europe suggest there might be a minority migration route in the east Atlantic, used more in autumn than in spring, although it is not known whether these birds winter in Africa or South America. Unlike other sandpipers it prefers humid inland pastureland as its stopover and wintering sites. The estimated Buff-Breasted Sandpiper population is 16,000-84,000 birds, based on migration counts, although it was much commoner in the past (hundreds of thousands). Its conservation state is precarious and it is listed as Near Threatened (NT) on a global level due to its declining trend (BirdLife, 2010).

- De Juana, E. (2006). Las aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.
- Dies, J. E. et al (2009). Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2007. Ardeola 56:309-344.
- Gutiérrez, R. (2010). Buff-breasted sandpiper in Spain, autumn 2010. Rare Bird in Spain Blog. 19-10-2010.