Nature conservation

Threatened species

Sanderling - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Calidris alba
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Profile last updated: 13 Oct 2021


An active, pale wader reaching 20 cm long. The non-breeding adult is pale grey above and white below, with a black patch at the angle of the wing. It has a short, straight, broad-based black bill, blackish-brown wings with broad, white wing-stripes, and short, black legs. In flight, it shows the widest white wing-bar of any sandpiper, on a very dark wing. The forehead and eyebrows are white; the rump and tail have a brown centre and white sides. Elements of the rufous breeding plumage may be visible in some birds just after their spring arrival or before their autumn departure, and in some overwintering birds.


A regular summer migrant from Siberia and other Arctic breeding grounds to most of the Australian coastline. It is uncommon to locally common, arriving from September and leaving by May (some may overwinter in Australia). Sanderlings occur along the NSW coast, with occasional inland sightings.

Habitat and ecology

  • Often found in coastal areas on low beaches of firm sand, near reefs and inlets, along tidal mudflats and bare open coastal lagoons; individuals are rarely recorded in near-coastal wetlands.
  • Generally occurs in small flocks, however may associate freely with other waders.
  • Individuals run behind receding waves, darting after insects, larvae and other small invertebrates in the sand, then dart back up the beach as each wave breaks.
  • Also feeds on plants, seeds, worms, crustaceans, spiders, jellyfish and fish, foraging around rotting heaps of kelp, at the edges of shallow pools on sandspits and on nearby mudflats.
  • Roosts on bare sand, behind clumps of beach-cast kelp or in coastal dunes.
  • Breeding occurs in the Northern Hemisphere.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Darling Riverine PlainsMenindee Predicted None
NSW North CoastCoffs Coast and Escarpment Predicted Within 2 km of coast
NSW North CoastKaruah Manning Known Within 2 km of coast
NSW North CoastMacleay Hastings Known Within 2 km of coast
NSW North CoastYuraygir Known None
OceanBatemans Shelf Known None
OceanHawkesbury Shelf Known None
OceanManning Shelf Known None
OceanSouth Pacific Ocean Predicted None
OceanTweed-Moreton Known None
OceanTwofold Shelf Known None
Ocean - Other StateNorthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Ocean - Other StateSouthern Australian Coastal Waters Known None
Other StateJervis Bay Territory Predicted None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Other StateVIC Known None
South East CornerBateman Known None
South East CornerEast Gippsland Lowlands Known None
South East CornerSouth East Coastal Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandBurringbar-Conondale Ranges Known None
South Eastern QueenslandClarence Lowlands Known Within 2 km of coast
South Eastern QueenslandScenic Rim Predicted None
South Eastern QueenslandSunshine Coast-Gold Coast Lowlands Predicted None
Sydney BasinIllawarra Known None
Sydney BasinJervis Known None
Sydney BasinPittwater Known None
Sydney BasinWyong Known None