Upland Sandpiper Habitat Model
go to: USFWS Gulf of Maine Watershed Habitat Analysis
go to: Species Table
Feedback: We welcome your suggestions on improving this model!

Draft Date:
March, 2001

Upland sandpiper, Bartramia longicauda

Use of Study Area Resources:
Reproduction, migration. Upland sandpipers breed from Alaska through southern Canada and the North American mid-west, to New England. They winter in South America (Johnsgard 1981, White 1988).

Habitat Requirements:
Cover. Upland sandpipers require large open grasslands and show a preference for nesting, feeding, and courtship in vegetation less than 60 cm in height (Ailes 1976, Kirsch and Higgins 1976), most commonly in areas interspersed with taller grasses which provide concealment (Johnsgard 1981, White 1988, Carter 1992). They also may use wet meadows in the mid-west (Johnsgard 1981). Typical nesting cover includes idle cropland, pasture, highway edges, hayfields, untilled crops such as clover, alfalfa or blueberries, and mowed grass at airports (Ailes 1976, Carter 1992, Pierson et al. 1996). Grassy fields of low growth are used for rearing the precocial chicks; including actively grazed pastures, recently burned fields, harvested crops, and recently hayed sites (Ailes 1980, Huber and Steuter 1984 in Carter 1992, Buhnerkempe and Westemeir 1988 in Carter 1992).

During migration upland sandpipers are known to use grasslands, agricultural lands, golf-courses and sometimes suburban lawns (Hayman et al. 1986), rarely shorelines and mudflats (DeGraaf and Rappole 1995). They feed on insects, snails, earthworms, and some grains (Forbush 1925 in Carter 1992, Johnsgard 1981).

Area. Upland sandpipers require large open areas. Weik (ms.) rarely found them in grasslands < 50 ha, but found them at 50% of sites > 50 ha, and all sites > 100 ha. Vickery et al. (1994) also noted that nesting is infrequent at sites < 50 ha, while 50% incidence was observed at sites > 200 ha.

Upland sandpipers are adaptable to human landscapes (airfields provide much of the remaining habitat in the East), including some agricultural uses (Pierson et al. 1996) although nests may be at risk from predation, trampling by livestock (Carter 1992), untimely mowing or tilling (Ailes 1976). Grazed pastures have lower levels of use by upland sandpipers than un-grazed pastures (Ailes 1976, Bowen and Kruse 1993).

The upland sandpiper range within the study area was delineated by selecting all USDA Forest Service Ecological subunits (Keys et al. 1995) which had Breeding Bird Survey or Breeding Bird Atlas occurrences. Subsequent mapping and testing of the model was restricted to these polygons.

Scores then were assigned according to cover type (see table, below) and area of contiguous habitat.
NWI Designations
(wetlands only)
Cover Types Cover Suitability
(0 - 1 scale)
Upland deciduous forest
Upland coniferous forest
Upland mixed forest
Grassland 0.8*
Upland scrub/shrub


Bare ground
PEM, L2EM Lake/pond, emergent vegetation
PFOcon Palustrine forest, conifer
PFOdec Palustrine forest, deciduous
PSSdec Palustrine scrub shrub, deciduous
PSScon Palustrine scrub shrub, conifer
PAB, L2AB Lake/pond, aquatic vegetation
L1UB, PUB Lake/pond, unconsolidated bottom
L2US Lake, unconsolidated shore
L2RS Lake, rocky shore
R1UB Riverine subtidal unconsolidated
Rper Riverine perennial
E1AB Estuarine subtidal vegetated
E1UB Estuarine subtidal unconsolidated bottom
E2AB Estuarine intertidal algae
E2EM Estuarine intertidal emergent
E2RS, R1RS Estuarine, tidal river rocky shore
E2SS Estuarine intertidal shrub
E2US Estuarine intertidal unconsolidated shore
M1AB Marine subtidal vegetated
M1UB Marine subtidal unconsolidated bottom
M2AB Marine intertidal algae
M2RS Marine intertidal rocky shore
M2US Marine intertidal unconsolidated shore
Specific grassland management areas, "known grassland bird habitats"**


NOTES *Grassland cover type rated < 1.0 because it includes lawns, golf courses, and fields with inappropriate management within this study area.
**known habitats are grasslands at locations of sightings of 2 or more grassland bird species or 3 or more birds, based on Shriver et al. (1999)

The relative suitability of patches => 200 ha, was 1.0. Otherwise, if > 50 ha, the habitat value was the cover score multiplied by 0.5; otherwise, if > 20 ha, the cover score multiplied by 0.1. If smaller than 20 ha the suitability was scored 0.

Model testing: The upland sandpiper occurrences from the New Hampshire Natural Heritage Program, Maine Heritage Program, and the Shriver et al. (1999) database were used to test the habitat map. These data had also been used to score the relative value of habitat clusters, but not to delineate habitat, and so still were regarded as eligible for testing presence/absence. We compared the presence of habitat near a random set of 571 upland points within the range of the upland sandpiper to that at which birds actually were observed. Of the 121 sites with birds, 94 had mapped habitat, while only 50 sites out of the 571 randomly distributed sites had habitat. The Chi-square was highly significant, indicating that the overall model does indicate localities useful to upland sandpipers.

Ailes, I.W. 1976. Ecology of the Upland Sandpiper in Central Wisconsin. MS thesis, Univ. of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, WI. 55p.

Ailes, I.W. 1980. Breeding biology and habitat use of the upland sandpiper in central Wisconsin. Passenger Pigeon 42(2):53-63.

Bowen, B.S. and A.D. Kruse. 1993. Effects of grazing on nesting by upland sandpipers in southcentral North Dakota. J. Wildl. Manage. 57(2):291-301.

Carter, J.W. 1992. Upland sandpiper. Pp. 235-252 in Schneider, K. J. and D. M. Pence (eds.) Migratory Nongame Birds of Management Concern in the Northeast. 1992 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Newton Corner, MA. 400p.

DeGraaf, R.M. and J.H. Rappole. 1995. Neotropical Migratory Birds: Natural History, Distribution and Population Change. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca, NY. 676 pp.

Hayman, P., J. Marchant and T. Prater. 1986. Shorebirds: an identification guide to the waders of the world. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA. 412 pp.

Johnsgard, P.A. 1981. The Plovers, Sandpipers and Snipes of the World. University of Nebraska Press. Lincoln, NE. 493 pp.

Keys, J.E., Jr., J.C. Carpenter, S. Hooks, F. Koenig, W.H. McNab, W. Russell and W. Smith. 1995. Ecological units of the eastern United States - first approximation (map and booklet of map unit tables), USDA Forest Service. Atlanta, GA.

Kirsch, L.M. and K.F. Higgins. 1976. Upland sandpiper nesting and management in North Dakota. Wildlife Soc. Bull 4(1):16-20.

Pierson, E.C., J E. Pierson and P.D. Vickery. 1996. A Birders Guide to Maine. Down East Books, Camden ME.

Shriver, W.G., R.J. MacCulloch and J.V. Wells. 1999. Grassland Birds Data Compilation Project for the Northeast U.S. (USFWS Region 5). USFWS, Hadley, MA.

Vickery, P.D., M.L. Hunter, Jr. and S.M. Melvin. 1994. Effects of habitat area on the distribution of grassland birds in Maine. Conserv. Biol. 8(4):1087-1097.

Weik, A. ms. Conservation of grassland birds in Maine; field survey of breeding birds 1997-1998. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Bangor, ME. 48 p.

White, R.P. 1988. Wintering grounds and migration patterns of the upland sandpiper. American Birds 42(5):1247-1253.