Winter’s Purple

Calidris maritimaOn Brooklyn’s rocky southwestern coast… say what? This outwash plain should be sand all the way to the Continental Shelf, but there are places where we have piled up the boulders. The rip-rap along Shore Road Greenway, from Owl’s Head Park down under the Verrazano Narrows and beyond, for instance, is fine habitat in winter for Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima). Calidris maritimaA lot of common names of animals are descriptive, more than a few are confusing: these sandpipers are only slightly purple (during the winter only) and will rarely be found on the sand, or mudflats. In winter, they are found almost exclusively on wave-sloushed rocks. Calidris maritimaArctic breeders like many shorebirds, they don’t travel nearly as far south as many other shorebird species (some to Patagonia); indeed, they have the northernmost winter range of any shorebird species. This one was pecking away at gastropods and crustaceans — nothing I can see, but then I’m no Purple Sandpiper.Calidris maritimaAnd when I say “wave-sloushed,” I mean it. The rocks pile upwards, but the birds are found down near the water, amidst the seaweed and the food. Waves are constantly replenishing the mini-ecology of the seaweedy rocks.

4 Responses to “Winter’s Purple”

  1. 1 judysbirds January 31, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Nice photos and commentary. Saw my first Purple Sandpipers last weekend on the rock jetties at the Ocean City Inlet, MD, feasting on a bed of mussels at low tide. They were fun to watch!

  2. 3 Ms. Carol Gracie January 31, 2014 at 9:41 am


    To you know about this weekly post about natural history sightings along the Hudson River — from source to NYC harbor? You are out and about so much, that I’m sue that you could add some novel observations.


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