National Geographic : 1915 Aug
SPOTTED SANDPIPER (Actitis macularia). Range: Breeds from tree limit in northwestern Alaska, northern Mackenzie, central Keewatin, northern Ungava, and Newfoundland south to southern Cali fornia, Arizona, southern Texas, southern Louisiana, and northern South Caro lina; winters from California, Louisiana, and South Carolina to southern Brazil and central Peru. This ubiquitous little sandpiper is probably better known to the residents of the United States than any other of its kind. From Alaska to Florida it may be looked for with confidence along the seashore or wherever river, pond, or slough offers it food and congenial surroundings. The sound of its sweet "weet weet" often announces its presence in the most unexpected places. As if its ordinary every-day activities were not sufficient for its energetic little body, it incessantly bows its head and teeters its tail, and so honestly comes by its vernacular name of "tip up" or "teeter." Unlike most of its kin this sandpiper never assembles in flocks, and hence offers no especial temptation to the gunner who, if he pursues it at all, must content himself with securing one tiny body at a shot; and although in fall our sandpiper becomes a perfect ball of fat, few consider the game worth the candle. Such being the case, we may expect to see this small wader survive many larger members of its tribe which, less fortunate than it, have a market value. The spotted sandpiper includes in its diet many insects that are harmful. SANDERLING (Calidris leucophea). Range: Breeds from Melville Island, Ellesmere Land, and northern Greenland to Point Barrow, Alaska, northern Mackenzie, Iceland, and in northern Siberia; winters from central California, Texas, Virginia, and Bermuda to Patagonia. The sanderling breeds on the far-away Arctic coast, and in early fall begins its wanderings southward. These take it pretty much over the known world. Even the Hawaiian Islands, in mid-ocean, more than 2,000 miles distant from the bird's nearest breeding grounds, are not too remote to attract it, though it is never numerous there. The sanderling is well named "beach bird," for sandy beaches are its favorite places of resort. No prettier sight can be imagined than a flock of these little white birds when busily engaged hunting for food. As the foam topped breakers rush up the beach, and retreat to gather force for another dash, they plough up the sand, and expose for a few brief seconds multitudes of sand fleas and minute shell fish. These are the chosen food of the sanderlings, and to gather their harvest they keep pace with the progress of the waves, now advancing, now retreating, ever ready to snatch any hapless creature less nimble than they. Sanderlings fly in small companies, and often a few indi viduals mingle with flocks of larger species. Though naturally so tame and un suspicious as hardly to recognize the presence of man, they associate in such small numbers that they are not greatly exposed to slaughter by the sportsman who, indeed, not long since, would have scorned such small game. But nowadays, when the larger shorebirds are scarce, the humble small fry must take their place and help fill the bag. UPLAND PLOVER (Bartramia longicauda). Range: Breeds from northwestern Alaska, southern Mackenzie, central Kee watin, central Wisconsin, southern Michigan, southern Ontario, and southern Maine to southern Oregon, northern Utah, central Oklahoma, southern Missouri, southern Indiana, and northernVirginia; winters on the pampas ofSouth America to Argentina. Though a member of the sandpiper family and inexcellent standing, the upland plover has the habits and themelodious voice ofboth plover and curlew. Itin habits grassy prairies and pastures. Though sometimes found incompanies of considerable size, the bird doesnot associate incompact flocks, asdo many sand pipers, plovers, and curlews. Formerly itnested over much ofthe United States, though its center of abundance was always the Prairie States, where not many years ago it was found literally by thousands. By nature the upland plover is unsuspecting and, even after much persecution has taught ittobeshy and wary of man, it may easily be approached on horseback orinavehicle. Because ofits approachability and its excellence for the table, the sportsman and the market gunner between them have practically exterminated the bird inmuch ofits eastern territory, and it is nolonger abundant anywhere. By the terms ofthe Federal law it is now unlawfultokill upland plover anywhere at any season, but it is to be feared that little attention ispaid to the prohibition inthe remote regions of the bird's habitat. The destruction ofthe species isthe less excusable, as there are few of the familywhich areso valuable, whether viewed from the standpoint of the sportsman,the epicure, or the farmer. Every farmer should know that nearly half this plover's food consists ofgrasshoppers, crickets, weevils, and many other kinds of insects; while itbehooves the cotton planter ofTexas and other States to realize that among the insects the bird consumes isthe cotton boll weevil. PECTORAL SANDPIPER (Pisobia maculata). Range: Breeds on the Arctic coast from northern Alaska to mouth ofYukon and northeastern Mackenzie; winters inSouth America from Peru and Bolivia to northern Chile, Argentina, and central Patagonia. The "grass bird," or "krieker," does not share the predilection of many ofits relatives for the sea beach butprefers mud flats and marshes. Inlate fall the grass on the salt-water marshes ishigh enough tohide the krieker, and yet not offer resistance to its progress, and itissurprising how difficult itisto see one asitstands motionless watching the enemy with unalarmed eyes. This sandpiper arrives or the Bering Sea coast to breedinMay, and Nelson's account ofitssong will sur prise those who know the species only when migrating. Speaking of anight passed in the Yukon delta, he says:"As my eyelids began todroop and the scene to. become indistinct, suddenly alow, hollow, booming note struck my ear. Again the sound arose nearer and more distinct, and with aneffort Ibrought myself back to the reality of my position and, resting upon one elbow, listened. Afew seconds passed and again arose the note; amoment later and, gun inhand, I stood outside the tent. The open flat extended away on allsides, with apparently not a living creature near. Once again the note was repeated close by, and a glance revealed its author. Standing inthe thin grasses ten orfifteen yards from me, with its throat inflated until itwas aslarge asthe rest ofthe bird, was amale A. maculata. The note is deep, hollow, and resonant, but at the same time liquid and musical, and may be represented by arepetition ofthesyllables too-u, too-u, too-u, too-u, too-u, too-u, too-u, too-u."