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Length 20-21 cm, wingspan 35-39 cm, weight 41-102 g.
Underparts always pure white. Summer plumage with brick-red to orange-tinged grey head and upper breast; mantle spangled orange, black and silver. Males tend to be brighter orange and females paler, more silvery. Winter adults plain silvery grey, with blackish primaries and a dark carpal ("shoulder") patch. Juveniles spangled with black and silver to pale yellow-buff above. In flight, strong white wingbar more conspicuous than in any other Calidris species.
 Confusion species
Summer adults can be confused with summer adult Red-necked Stint and Little Stint; Sanderling differs in being significantly larger, and in close views, by lacking a hind toe. The behaviour, fast running on sandy shores, is also usually distinct, though vagrant Sanderlings in muddy habitats can behave more stint-like.
Breeds in the far-northern Holarctic (concentrations in Canada, Greenland and Siberia); non-breeding range is on coasts worldwide (for example, a bird breeding in Greenland may winter anywhere from northern Europe to South Africa). A migrant (spring and autumn) and winter visitor to Britain. Rarely seen any distance inland.
The two subspecies are very similar, distinguished only by small differences in morphometrics
Nesting habitat is rocky tundra, while coasts and especially sandy beaches are used the rest of the year.
Forages in flocks on beaches, usually in moist sand. The diet includes crustaceans, small marine worms, insects, fish and molluscs.
Three or four eggs are laid in a ground scrape. Some females lay one clutch which is then attended by both parents; others lay one clutch which they leave for the male to attend and shortly after a second clutch which is only attended by the female.
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