Buff-breasted Sandpiper
(Calidris subruficollis)


Picture of bird
© Christian Artuso
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper breeds in the coastal tundra of Arctic Canada. Historically, the species’ population was greatly reduced by market hunting. Several site-specific studies have documented large decreases relative to about 1970, leading to high conservation concern for the species. However, additional information is needed to adequately describe the species’ population status. With more than 80% of the global breeding population, Canada's responsibility for the species is very high. Many conservation organizations consider the species to be of concern throughout its range. In 2012, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was assessed as Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC 2012d) due to recent population declines tied to habitat loss on the wintering grounds and along migratory corridors. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Listing of the main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Special Concern2012 
SARA (Canada)No Status  
IUCN (Global)Near threatened2012 
Wild Species (Canada)Sensitive2010 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic areaStatusReliability
CanadaLarge DecreaseLow

Population estimate

Canada50,000 - 100,000 adults (includes birds breeding and migrating within Canada)

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation of world population

CanadaVery High

Conservation and management

The small population size means that even local disturbances can threaten this species. Ongoing loss and degradation of the grassland habitats used during migration and winter, as well as exposure to agricultural chemicals, are significant threats to the species (Lanctot and Laredo 1994). 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. 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. Climate change may impact Buff-breasted Sandpipers in several ways including encroachment of shrub in its tundra breeding habitat and changes in wetland and pond habitats used during migration, rising sea levels and increased rainfall may flood the birds’ coastal habitat, and more intense storms may increase mortality of juveniles migrating along the Atlantic coast (COSEWIC 2012d).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Arctic Plains and MountainsArctic Plains and Mountains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern Region
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario Region
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern Region
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainsTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains, sub-region and priority type: Ontario Region