Have you seen tiny little birds along the ocean shores that chase the waves or get chased by them? As the waves recede the birds pick or probe the wet beach sands and run away fast as the wave comes crashing towards them. They are quite a sight to watch, even funny at times. The Calidris alba (Sanderlings)! Sanderlings are beachcombers, running frantically back and forth along the waterline in search of food. They eat all sorts of small animals that appear when the water retracts, whether washed ashore, such as small crustaceans, or living in the sandy bottom, such as the Nerine cirratulus.
The Sanderling is one of the world’s most widespread shorebirds. They nest only in the High Arctic. In fall and winter one can find them on nearly all temperate and tropical sandy beaches.
Sanderlings can fly tremendous distances without stopping to rest. But nonbreeding Sanderlings often stay on the wintering grounds through the summer, saving energy by avoiding the long trip to the Arctic nesting grounds. Many nonbreeders remain in South America, while some remain along the North American coasts.
Sanderlings are territorial, with the male aggressively defending its territory. They may either form monogamous pairs or polyandrous (one female and two male) pairings.
On beaches, Sanderlings are strong, fast runners as they perpetually scurry just ahead of arriving and retreating waves. On the nesting grounds males establish territories about 400 yards across, and both members of a breeding pair chase intruders from the territory.