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. Until more information is available, the species is considered to be data deficient. With more than 80% of the global breeding population, Canada's responsibility for the species is very high. 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 suspected population declines tied to habitat loss on the wintering grounds and along migration routes. The species was listed as such under the Species at Risk Act in 2017. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
COSEWIC (Canada)Special Concern2012 
SARA (Canada)Special Concern2017 
IUCN (Global)Near threatened2018 
Partners in Flight (North America)Watch list - yellow D2017 
Wild Species (Canada)Vulnerable2015 
State of North America’s BirdsWatch list2016 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaData DeficientData DeficientBelow Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 100,000 adults (includes birds breeding and migrating within Canada)

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery High

Conservation and management

The species was once common and perhaps even abundant historically, but it suffered severe declines due to intensive market hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Its population has grown since hunting was banned in North America, but numbers remain low (McCarty et al. 2017). The species' small population size means that even local disturbances can pose a major threat. Ongoing loss and degradation of the species' preferred grassland habitats used during migration and winter, as well as exposure to agricultural chemicals, are significant threats to the Buff-breasted Sandpiper (McCarty et al. 2017; COSEWIC 2012d). Climate change may also be a signficant threat to this Arctic-breeding shorebird throughout its annual cycle, both through changes in food and habitat availability, and direct mortality from increasing storm intensity (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 -- Other
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Prairie PotholesPrairie Potholes, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Other
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainsTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation