Curlew Sandpiper – 2018

Calidris ferruginea – PIBYDD CAMBIG – Scarce visitor

The Curlew Sandpiper breeds along most of the Arctic coast of Siberia, and winter mainly along the coasts of sub-Saharan Africa but also in India and as far south as Australia and New Zealand (HBW).  Individuals from the western Siberian population migrate via Scandinavia, stopping off at the Waddenzee off the north coast of the Netherlands and Germany.  A number of these find their way across the North Sea to Britain, with a few making it as far west as Pembrokeshire.

Males leave the breeding grounds in July, followed later by the females; thus birds seen here in August are mainly adults, with some still in full breeding plumage.  Larger numbers occur in September, and these are almost all juveniles.

Numbers are variable – one or two records in some years, dozens in others.  This depends partly on the weather conditions over Scandinavia at the time of autumn migration, and partly on the number of young fledged in that year.  The latter depends on the number of lemmings on the Curlew Sandpiper’s Arctic breeding grounds. When lemmings are numerous, predators such as the Arctic Fox prefer them. When lemmings are few, the predators turn to wader eggs and chicks (BTO Migration Atlas 2002).

Large influxes were recorded in 1969 and 1988 (see Curlew Sandpiper 1994); and in 1996 when 29 were recorded at the Nevern Estuary on 22 Sept, along with 11 at Hook on the Cleddau estuary the same day (high numbers were also recorded elsewhere in Wales). 

Spring migration only occasionally brings one or two birds to Pembrokeshire. Most of these are seen in late April and May, the earliest record being 16th March on Skokholm, 1959.

When can they be seen?

The graph shows the cumulative number of records (not the number of birds) entered into BirdTrack since 1980. Although BirdTrack did not exist in 1980, a lot of data, especially from the island bird logs, has been added retrospectively. Conversely, not all records go into BirdTrack, and there is a lot of data missing from this graph. However, it does give a good indication of a few records in May (weeks 18-22), a few in July, but most from mid-August to late October (weeks 34 to 43).

Where can they be seen?

Records are scattered through the main coastal sites of the Teifi Estuary, Nevern Estuary and the Cleddau Estuary, on the latter mainly at the Gann and Angle Bay. Birds are also recorded passing Strumble Head.


There have been few ringing recoveries involving Wales, and only one from Pembrokeshire. This individual was ringed at Angle Bay – one of the September 1996 influx – and was caught by a ringer in Spain nearly 15 years later in August 2011.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)


BALMER D, GILLINGS S, CAFFREY B, SWANN B, DOWNIE I, FULLER R. 2014. Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland.  HarperCollins.  UK

HBW – Handbook of the Birds of the World

LACK P. 1986.  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

WERNHAM. C, TOMS. M, MARCHANT. J, CLARK. J, SIRIWARDENA. G, BAILLIE. S. 2002. The Migration Atlas, Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Curlew Sandpiper in Pembrokeshire