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Length: 20â€“22 cm, wingspan 40â€“44 cm, weight 55â€“105 g
The bill is thin and dark with a yellow base, and the legs are short and greenish-yellow in summer, yellow in winter. Summer: Dark grey-brown above and on breast, with brown fringes to scapular and mantle feathers Winter: Ddark blackish-grey with a purple sheen on top, and white underneath. Lacks mantle scalloping and breast spotting. The breast is grey and the rump is black. Juvenile: Similar to adult summer. White scalloping to mantle feathering.
Apart from Rock Sandpiper, the only small dark wader with yellow legs likely to be seen on a rocky shore. In winter Rock Sandpiper best distinguished by distribution (Pacific coasts, versus Atlantic for Purple), but in breeding plumage Rock Sandpiper has bold dark belly patch. Mantle feather patterning differs subtly in Summer.
Very closely related to Rock Sandpiper; in the past sometimes considered conspecific with it. Monotypic. Purple Sandpiper is variable in size and bill length and four subspecies have been proposed in the past, C. m. maritima (Scandinavia, Russia, arctic Canada), C. m. groenlandica (Greenland), C. m. littoralis (Iceland), and C. m. belcheri (Hudson Bay, Canada), but genetic analysis showed they have minimal differentiation and intergrade extensively.
Engelmoer, M., & Roselaar, C. S. (1998). Geographical variation in waders. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Barisas, D. A. G., et al. (2015). A review of the subspecies status of the Icelandic Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima littoralis. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 175: 211â€“221.
Hallgrimsson, G. T., Summers, R. W., Etheridge, B., & Swann, R. L. (2012). The winter range of Nearctic Purple Sandpipers Calidris maritima on the East Atlantic flyway. Ardea 100: 13â€“18.
Leblanc, N., Stewart, D., PĂˇlsson, S., Elderkin, M. F., Mittelhauser, G., Mockford, S., Paquet, J., Robertson, G., Summers, W. R., Tudor, L. & Mallory, M. (2017). Population structure of Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima) as revealed by mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites. Ecology and Evolution. 2017:1â€“18.
Payne, L. X. and E. P. Pierce (2002). Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.706
Summers, R.W., Corse, C. J., Nicoll, M., Smith R. & Whitfield D. P. (1988) The biometrics and wintering area of Icelandic Purple Sandpipers, Ringing & Migration, 9:3, 133-138, DOI: 10.1080/03078698.1988.9673936
Summers,R.W., Boland, H., Colhoun, K., Elkins N., Etheridge B., Foster S., Fox J. W., Mackie K., Quinn L.R. & Swann R.L. 2014. Contrasting trans-Atlantic migratory routes of Nearctic Purple Sandpipers Calidris maritima associated with low pressure systems in spring and winter. Ardea 102: 139â€“152. doi:10.5253/arde.v102i2.a4
Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53936 on 17 September 2018).