They nest on a variety of Arctic tundra habitats ranging from dry gravelly or rocky ridge sites to vegetated moist sites. In the winter, they are most prevalent on sandy beaches but also use lakeshores, tide pools, estuaries and mudflats. Inland populations may also be found near reservoirs, ponds, and shallow lakes, especially in the Canadian prairies.
North American breeding populations nest in the summer on high Arctic tundra, primarily in Greenland, and Canada, but also rarely in Alaska. Birds from Greenland mainly travel to West Africa. In the Western Hemisphere, wintering birds are distributed on beaches throughout the Americas (including as far north as southern Alaska and the Canadian Maritimes), but are relatively rare on the Gulf of Mexico. Globally, they breed also in Norway and Russia and are very widespread near the coasts of every continent in the world except Antarctica.
Reproduction and Development
Only birds who plan to breed return to the breeding grounds in the Arctic. Other birds save energy by avoiding the journey of thousands of miles. Sanderlings are usually monogamous, though some birds of both sexes have been observed mating with multiple partners.
Females build the nests without help from males, digging a small shallow depression, and lining it with a few plants and mosses. Mothers lay an average of four eggs in each brood, and both parents incubate them for about a month (23-32 days). One parent usually leaves the nest after the chicks hatch, while the attending parent remains with the chicks until they are fledged. Sometimes both parents stay. The chicks run after their parents after hatching. They learn from their parents and are independent at about three weeks old.