Physiographic Region 36: Central Shortgrass Prairie
Upland Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda)
Associated Species: Other species that may use habitat in a similar way and/or respond similarly
to threats, management, and conservation activities include Grasshopper Sparrow and Western
Distribution: Upland Sandpipers breed from north-central Alaska east to southern New
Brunswick, south to central Virginia, and west to northeastern Colorado. Within Colorado, they
nest only in the northeastern corner of the state.
Habitat Requirements: Upland Sandpipers prefer meadows, croplands, and mixed-grass and
tallgrass prairies. In Colorado, they find suitable nesting habitat in grassy riparian zones. Upland
Sandpipers avoid nesting in vegetation taller than about 62 cm (24 in) and often nest in much
shorter vegetation--less than 6 cm (2.4 in). They also avoid nesting in croplands. They use open
areas, such as grazed pasture, cut hayfields, and croplands with vegetation shorter than about 27
cm (10.5 in), for foraging (Bolster 1990).
Ecology: Upland Sandpipers arrive in Colorado in April and nest in May. The young fledge in
June. They depart for their wintering grounds in the grasslands of southern South America by late
July. The diet consists primarily of insects, especially grasshoppers, locusts, and weevils; they
also eat some seeds and grains.
Management Issues and Conservation Recommendations: The primary causes of population
declines are probably the loss of breeding and wintering habitat by conversion to agriculture and
the removal of taller vegetation by intensive grazing. Colorado populations are at the periphery of
the species' range, and suitable habitat is scarce even without loss due to human activities.
Protect mixed-grass and tallgrass habitats in riparian zones.
Many broods are lost when hay is cut in the second half of July, before young birds have fledged.
To protect these birds, cut hay 7-10 days later, cut hay several inches taller, or leave islands of
uncut hay in each field as refugia (Bolster 1990).
Status and Reasons for Concern: This species is representative of an uncommon habitat type
(midgrass and tallgrass riparian zones) within this physiographic area. This is a USFS Sensitive
Species in Region 2. Within the Central Shortgrass Prairie, BBS data do not show a statistically
significant annual rate of change between 1966 and 1996 (P = 0.54; n = 29 routes). Upland
Sandpipers were present on an average of 9.76% (SE = 1.66) of the BBS routes run in
Physiographic Area 36 in Colorado during 1988-1997, at an average abundance of 0.28 (SE =
0.09) individuals per route. The mean number of routes run each year was 29.2 (SE = 2.28).
This species is monitored by MCB with tracking transects.
Biological Objective: Maintain or increase the species' distribution and abundance, based upon
results from the BBS and MCB monitoring programs.
Selected References: Andrews and Righter 1992, Kingery 1998, Kirsch and Higgins 1976.