Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Banded Sanderling Returns

January 26, 2022

During her January surveys, SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht spotted several banded birds, one of which was a familiar banded sanderling (Calidris alba). It was first observed on Sanibel in April 2016. This bird was banded as an adult in May 2014 at Chaplin Lake in Saskatchewan, Canada. University of Saskatchewan researchers banded several hundred sanderlings at this location between 2012 and 2015. Chaplin Lake is a significant stopover location for several species of migratory shorebirds, especially sanderlings.

Over the last six years, this banded sanderling has returned to Sanibel each winter and has been observed as far east as the lighthouse and as far west as Bowman’s Beach. Some sanderlings migrate from their arctic nesting grounds to South America, while others, like this banded bird, stay in Florida through the winter.

Over the last few years, this bird has lost some of its color bands, but we are still able to confirm its identity by the number on its metal band. Volunteers and staff refer to it as “Flagless” because it lost its flag and has no unique code like the other banded sanderlings. Considering that shorebird populations are declining worldwide, and these birds face constant threats, it is remarkable that this tiny bird persists and returns to the islands each winter.

If you want to give shorebirds the chance to flourish, remember to walk around resting shorebirds on the beach, and always keep your pets leashed. These diminutive birds fly thousands of miles to their nesting ground and need all their energy to survive migration. Unnecessarily flushing them (scaring them off) causes them to burn precious energy reserves they can’t afford to lose. If you see a banded bird or have any questions about shorebirds in general, please send a message to SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht at


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