top of page

Whimbrels, Curlews, Sandpipers & Snipes

Whimbrel

Eurasian Whimbrel

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in small groups but can be seen in larger flocks.​

Notably smaller than Curlew. Bill is shorter and curves more closer to the tip. Markings on head much more prominent than in Curlew, with double dark lateral crown-stripes (light stripe on top of crown) and dark eye-stripe. Note that young Curlews have noticeably shorter bill than adults! Gives an overall darker impression than Curlew, especially underwing and flanks.

Diet

The whimbrel uses its long, curved bill to probe deep in the sand and mud for food. It wades in shallow water in search of crabs, fish, worms and molluscs. It also eats insects, seeds, berries, and leaves.

Longevity record

16 years (A shot bird in the UK, EH 49697)

Gurlin Żgħir

Numenius phaeopus

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

March - April, July - September

Occasionally seen in

November - December

Click on the image to open slideshow

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

37 - 45
78 - 88
305 - 425

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
gurlin zghir, whimbrel
Curlew

Eurasian Curlew

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in small groups.

 

Biggest wader in area. Differs from Whimbrel in longer bill with a more even curve, only diffuse head markings without crown stripes or marked eye-stripe. Note that young Curlews have much shorter bill than adults. Base of bill pinkish. Plumage gives a paler impression than Whimbrel, with paler underwings and flanks.

Diet

Feeds by probing soft mud for small invertebrates, but will also pick small crabs and earthworms off the surface.

Longevity record

31 years (Ring read in the field in the UK, FS 40887)

Gurlin 

Numenius arquata

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Very scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

March - April, October - November

Occasionally seen in

August -  September

Click on the image to open slideshow

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

48 - 57
89 - 106
415 - 980

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
gurlin, curlew
Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Most likely to be confused with Black-tailed Godwit, but easily recognized in flight by plain dark wings, white wedge on back and barred tail. More difficult to identify when not flying. Generally more compact, heavier built and less upright than Black-tailed, and with clearly upcurved bill and shorter legs. Belly always unmarked. Base of bill dark in summer and pinkish in winter and in juveniles. Back with arrow-shaped streaking. Adult winter also streaked, and the pale supercilium reaches behind the eye.

Diet

The bar-tailed godwit eats insects in the summer. Occasionally, it eats seeds and berries. In the winter and during migration, it wades in the water, probing in the mud with its long, thin bill for molluscs, crustaceans, snails, worms, and other aquatic invertebrates.

Longevity record

33 years (UK, DS 66532)

Girwiel Denbu bl-Istrixxi 

Limosa lapponica

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Rare

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

September - October

Occasionally seen in

March - July

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

33 - 41
62 - 72
190 - 400

bar tailed godwit, girwiel denbu bl istrixxi
Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Most likely to be confused with Bar-tailed Godwit, but easily recognized in flight by its contrasting black and white wings and tail. More difficult to identify when not flying. Generally much leggier, more elegant and upright than Bar-tailed, and with straighter bill. Tibia especially long. Summer plumage with barred/spotted belly (never in Bar-tailed), and orange base of bill. Juveniles with scaled back, not arrow-shaped streaking. Adult winter with mainly uniformly grey plumage, and short supercilium not reaching behind the eye.

Diet

The bar-tailed godwit eats insects in the summer. Occasionally, it eats seeds and berries. In the winter and during migration, it wades in the water, probing in the mud with its long, thin bill for mollusks, crustaceans, snails, worms, and other aquatic invertebrates.

Longevity record

23 years (Ring read in the field in the UK, EF 90838)

Girwiel Denbu bl-Istrixxi 

Limosa limosa

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Very scarce

Usually seen in

February - April 

Occasionally seen in

January, July - November

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
hiclipart_edited.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

37 - 42
63 - 74
160 - 440

godwit.jpg
Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in small groups.

Adults unmistakable. White head with bold black markings and orangely brown back. Even more striking in flight, with white wedge on back, large white patches at base of wings, white wing-bars and black and white tail. Juvenile and winter plumage birds with similar white patches, but with darker head and greyish, dark brown back. Underside always pure white. Leaves a robust and compact impression, with heavy bill and square head.

Diet

Ruddy Turnstones feed primarily on adult and larval flies and midges during the breeding season. They uncover their prey by flipping over rocks, pebbles, shells, or seaweed with their stout, slightly upturned bills. They also eat spiders, beetles, bees, and wasps.

Longevity record

21 years (UK, XS 56243)

Monakella Imperjali 

Arenaria interpres

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Very scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

April - May, August - September

Occasionally seen in

June - July, October - December

Click on the image to open slideshow

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

21 - 24
43 - 49
90 - 130

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
ruddy turnstone, monakella imperjali
Red Knot

Red Knot

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in pairs.

Large, stocky Calidris. Easily identified when direct size-comparison with congeners possible. Elongated body shape and short legs. Bill robust, short and straight. Summer plumage: Upperparts speckled in brown and grey, underparts warm rufous brown, like Curlew Sandpiper. Legs dark. Winter- and juvenile plumage: Pale grey upperparts (scaly pattern in juveniles), and white belly. Legs greenish in both juveniles and winter-plumaged adults. Note pale grey rump and uniformly grey tail in flight. Wing-bars less prominent than in Sanderling.

Diet

Crab eggs, molluscs, insects, vegetation and seeds. During their migration and in the winter, the bird feeds on small invertebrates that live in mud, such as small molluscs, marine worms  and crustaceans.

Longevity record

26 years , 8 months (Read in the field in the UK,  CE 25745)

Girwiela Saqajha Qosra

Calidris canutus

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Very rare

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

-

Occasionally seen in

May, August - September

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

23 - 26
47 - 53
98 - 122

9089-231222-2.jpg
Ruff

Ruff

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in small groups.

A relatively large wader with long orange or greenish (juveniles) legs. Scaly back and medium long, slightly curved and heavy bill. Male in breeding plumage unmistakable with ruff in various colours and patterns. Characteristic upright posture and body shape with long neck, small head and humped back. Conspicuous white oval patches at upper base of tail. Notable difference in size between sexes (male largest). Often seen feeding in meadows and fields when away from breeding ground.

Diet

Mostly eats insects, especially flies, beetles, caddisflies. Also eats small molluscs, crustaceans, spiders, worms, small fish and frogs.

Longevity record

13 years , 11 months (Accident trapped in a fishnet in Finland,AT-8167)

Girwiela 

Calidris pugnax

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Fairly common

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

March - June, August - October

Occasionally seen in

July, December

Click on the image to open slideshow

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

25 - 34
46 - 60
85 - 242

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
5618-250922.jpg
Curlew Sandpiper

Curlew Sandpiper

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in small groups.

Summer plumage: Warm, rufous brown below like Knot, but much smaller. Bill curved and much longer, and appearance more long-legged. Winter and juvenile plumage grey above and pale below. Differs from Dunlin in slightly longer legs and bill, more pronounced supercilium, no black patches on belly (some rufous summer feathers may show when moulting) and more upright stance. Juveniles with buff-pinkish tone to breast, and scaly upperparts. Always distinct in all plumages when flying, due to bright white and crescent-shaped rump-patch.

Diet

Feeds on crustaceans (amphipods and shrimps), molluscs, marine worms and insects (mainly flies and beetles). Insects are the main part of the diet during the breeding season.

Longevity record

19 years  8 months (A shot bird in Finland, PT-30356)

Begazzina Ħamra

Calidris ferruginea

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

April - May

Occasionally seen in

July - October

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

19 - 22
38 - 41
43 - 67

3312-220822.jpg
Temminck's Stint

Temminck's Stint

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

A small wader with yellowish legs and short, almost straight, dark bill with pale base. Noticeably smaller than Dunlin, and with shorter and straighter bill. Similar in size to Little Stint, but legs light yellowish, tail longer with white edges and markings on back quite plain. Clear divide between markings of breast and white underparts. Juveniles with prominent scale-pattern on back. Upperparts of adults in winter plumage more evenly grey, lacking the star shaped spots of summer. Prefers fresh or brackish waters, even on migration.

Diet

They mostly eat insects and other small invertebrates.

Longevity record

14 years  11 months (Read in the field in Finland, X-509990)

Tertuxa Griża
Calidris temminckii
Charadriiformes
Scolopacidae
Very scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

May - September

Occasionally seen in

April, October

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

13 - 15
34 - 37
20 - 31

7494-070523-2.jpg
Sanderling

Sanderling

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in very small groups.

An energetic, stocky and robust wader. Black legs and bill. Black wing-bend (not always visible), and broad white wing-bars framed in black. Summer plumage with rufous head and back. Winter and juvenile plumaged birds gives a much whiter impression than all congeners, with light grey upperparts and pure white underside. Juveniles with star-shaped, black markings on back. Lacks hind toe.

Diet

Feeds on a wide variety of small creatures on beach, including sand crabs, amphipods, isopods, insects, marine worms, small molluscs; also may eat some carrion. Wintering birds on southern coasts may eat corn chips and other junk food left by people.

Longevity record

18 years  7 months (UK, BB 52147)

Pispisella Bajda
Calidris alba
Charadriiformes
Scolopacidae
Very scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

May

Occasionally seen in

April, August - October

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

18 - 21
35 - 39
50 - 60

1056-250821.jpg
Dunlin

Dunlin

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in very small groups.

Only small wader in the region with a dark or spotted belly. Bill quite long with slightly curved tip. Legs dark. Summer plumage with unmistakable large black patch on belly, and variable warm, rufous brown back. Juveniles and moulting adults usually shows at least some diagnostic dark spots on belly in contrast to white flanks. White V-shaped markings on back, but not as striking as in juvenile Little Stint. Only adults in winter plumage shows completely white underparts (and uniformly grey back).

Diet

The Dunlin eats insects and larvae, marine worms, small crustaceans, snails and small fish. Sometimes it is called the "sewing machine" because of the way it bobs its head up and down and pokes into the ground when it probes for food.

Longevity record

28 years  10 months (Denmark, 807017)

Begazzina tat-Tizz

Calidris alpina

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Fairly common

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

March - May,  July -  October

Occasionally seen in

June

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

17 - 21
32 - 36
35 - 62

20170666-2.jpg
Little Stint

Little Stint

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in very small groups.

A small compact wader with dark legs and short, almost straight dark bill. Noticeably smaller than Dunlin, and with shorter, and straighter bill. Similar in size to Temminck's Stint, but legs dark, tail shorter (and grey) and markings on back less plain. Juveniles with prominent white V on back, and split white supercilium. Upperparts of adults rufous brown in summer, and light grey in winter.

Diet

Mainly insects but also crustaceans and molluscs.

Longevity record

14 years  8 months (Found dead in the Czech Republic, RX 17327)

Tertuxa

Calidris minuta

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Fairly common

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

March - November

Occasionally seen in

December

Click on the image to open slideshow

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

14 - 15.5
27 - 30
20 - 30

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
3074-080521.jpg
Terek Sandpiper

Terek Sandpiper

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Slightly larger than the common sandpiper in length, its long upcurved bill – somewhat reminiscent of an avocet's, but not as strongly curved – makes it very distinctive. As the scientific specific name implies, this wader has a grey back, face and breast in all plumages; a white supercilium may appear more or less distinct. The belly is whitish and the feet yellow; the bill has a yellowish base, with the rest being black

Diet

Terek Sandpipers feed busily, walking briskly pecking at the surface or probing in shallow water, on soft wet intertidal mudflats. They eat crustaceans and insects, adding seeds, molluscs and spiders in their breeding grounds.

Longevity record

16 years (Finland, AT-73914)

Bgazzina tax-Xifa
Xenus cinereus
Charadriiformes
Scolopacidae
Vagrant

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

-

Occasionally seen in

May  - June, August

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

22 - 25
57 - 59
60 - 78

No%20Image%20Availableuploads_clipart_wh
Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually and in small groups.

A small, active and quick wader. Most easily identified in the field by it's behaviour and sound. Most distinct plumage feature is the white wedge in front of the wings at the sides of the breast. Body is elongated and legs fairly short and greenish. Constantly bobs body and head. In flight the dark rump and white wing-bars are obvious. Often flickers its wings when flying low above water, especially just before landing. In flight, common sandpipers have a stiff-winged style and typically stay close to the water or ground.

Sex cannot be distinguished from the plumage but only from the body size. Birds with a wing shorter than 111 mm are males and those with a wing longer than 117 mm are females. Anything in between can either be a male or a female. In order to have a 95% probably right guess of a bird's sex, one has also to take into consideration the tarsus and toe together with the wing measurements.

Diet

Sandpipers are ground feeders that dine on crustaceans, insects, worms, and other coastal creatures. They retrieve them by meticulously pecking and probing with their short bills.

Longevity record

14 years 6 months (Found dead in Sweden, 3189307)

Begazzina tar-Rokka / Pispisella

Actitis hypoleucos

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Common

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

March - May, July - October

Occasionally seen in

all other months

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

18 - 20.5
32 - 35
41 - 56

common sandpiper, begazzina tar rokka, pispisella
Green Sandpiper

Green Sandpiper

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually and in small groups but occasionally in larger flocks

A dark, often secretive, wader. Quite similar to Wood Sandpiper, but differs in dark underwings, only small white spots on back, defined border between speckled chest and white belly, broad dark markings on tail and a supercilium that does not reach behind eye. Leaves an overall much darker impression than Wood Sandpiper. Particularly in flight.

Diet

Nymphs, bugs and larva of caddis-flies and true-flies.

Longevity record

11 years 6 months (UK, CR 63312)

Swejda
Tringa ochropus
Charadriiformes
Scolopacidae
Scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

February - May, July - October

Occasionally seen in

January, June

Click on the image to open slideshow

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

20 - 24
39 - 44
75 - 85

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
green sandpiper, swejda
Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Unmistakable in breeding plumage, with all dark/blackish body unique among Tringas. Most birds seen in Europe will probably be in winter- or juvenile plumage, and can then be mistaken for Redshanks. Spotted Redshanks are slimmer, longer legged and more elegant than Redshanks. The supercilium is much more prominent, the bill is slimmer and longer. Most diagnostic is the lack of white wing-bars, and the white cigar-shaped patch on the back. The barring in juveniles reaches from the belly and all the way back to the vent. Often feeds in deeper water than Redshanks, even by swimming and upending. 

Diet

Insect larvae, shrimps, small fish and worms.

Longevity record

8 years 7 months (Shot bird in Finland, B-70005)

Ċuvett
Tringa erythropus
Charadriiformes
Scolopacidae
Rare

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

April - May, July - September

Occasionally seen in

March, October

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

29 - 33
59 - 66
125 - 160

3165-170323.jpg
Common Greenshank

Common Greenshank

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Large Tringa with upcurved bill. The mainly white and pale grey plumage (and head) gives it a pale appearance. Upper parts speckled in black in summer plumage. Upper side of wings rather dark, back lighter grey with conspicuous long white wedge. Tail white, with diffuse grey barring. Back of juveniles with v-shaped scales/fringes. Legs greenish to grey-green. Wing beats quite deep and sometimes with "slow motion" like quality.

Diet

Greenshanks eat insects, worms, molluscs, small fish and crustaceans, feeding both by day and night. They feed by picking from the surface, probing, sweeping and lunging at the edges of mudflats or shallows. They may walk along the shoreline and even chase small fish in the shallow water.

Longevity record

24 years 5 months (Netherlands, 2040963)

Ċewċewwa

Tringa nebularia

Charadriiformes

Scolopacidae

Scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

March , August - October

Occasionally seen in

April - June, November

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

30 - 34
55 - 62
155 - 210

common greenshank, cewcewwa
Common Redshank

Common Redshank

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Adults differ from most other waders by bright red legs. Large white rectangular patches on secondaries conspicuous in flight in all plumages. Spotted redshanks in winter- or juvenile plumage lacks white wing bars, are more elegant with a more slender bill, and shows a stronger dark eye-stripe and white supercilium. Juvenile Redshanks are unevenly, and sparsely spotted below from the legs to the vent, as opposed to the barring of juvenile Spotted Redshanks. Leg colour in juveniles often dull yellowish. Flanks evenly spotted. Winter plumage with brownish upperparts.

Diet

The Common Redshank feeds mainly on insects, spiders and worms. Outside the breeding season, the bird feeds on molluscs and crustaceans, but also on small fish and tadpoles. Its feeding behaviour depends on the season.

Longevity record

26 years 11 months (Found dead in Denmark, 721125)

Pluverott / Pluvirott
Tringa totanus
Charadriiformes
Scolopacidae
Very scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

June - August

Occasionally seen in

November - December

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

24 - 27
47 - 53
92 - 127

common redshank, pluverott, pluvirott
Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually or in small flocks.