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Green Sandpiper

An autumn passage migrant and occasional winter visitor

Photograph by: 
Ian Ballam

The green sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) is rarely seen in large groups, they seem to be solitary individuals although sometimes half a dozen or so might be seen together in suitable habitat. They are very fond of muddy scrapes with nearby cover and do not seem comfortable out in the open on the mudflats at low tide along with other waders. 

They are very similar in size and shape to a common sandpiper but have a much darker back which in summer is much greener in appearance than in winter. They have quite a distinct white eye stripe which is visiable from some distance. They are nervous, wary birds that are difficult to get close to.

Whilst one could not describe the green sandpiper as a common winter visitor it is not unusual to find them in Dorset. Like many other waders they come south from northern breeding grounds, where they actually nest in woodland, to over winter in our warmer climate.This is not a breeding species in Dorset of course, like many waders the green sandpiper is generally seen on migration tending to arrive here, stay a while and then move further south when the weather deteriorates. The weekly chart shows this quite well with a good number of reports from week 24 at the end of July continuing through until week week 35 at the end of September. Reports continue to come in over the winter at a lower level with few sightings in December through until the end of April when reports dry up as the birds are return north for the breeding season. There is little sign of a spring influx so, as with many birds, it seems they do not stick around in spring when the have work to do but then take their time going south when the breeding season is over.

Most records come from coastal locations, especially those with scrapes and Lytchett Bay, Sunnyside Farm and Holton Lee all now have good habitat for green sandpiper and regular reports come from sites such as these. They can also be frequently seen on watercress beds and sometimes in soggy river valleys. They are not often seen at the sites many other waders are where there is substantial open mud at low tide.

Your best chance to see green sandpiper is to visit one of the three sites I mentioned above in late summer (July and August) so watch the news for signs that they are returning south.




Common Name Green Sandpiper
Scientific Name Tringa ochropus
Species Group Birds Sandpipers
Status Occasional
Interest Level
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
Look for

Medium sized, dark backed, wader hugging the edge of mud and saltmarsh

Identification Notes
  • Unsure why they are called green sandpiper as the do not seem to display any green colouring to me
  • Although found mainly by saltmarsh and mudflats they can also be seen inland in damp meadows and even watercress beds
  • A delicate bird with a dark brown back and a white rump when it flies 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Sandpipers