Conserve Wildlife Blog

NJ State Endangered Upland Sandpiper End of Season Update

December 3rd, 2021

by Meaghan Lyon, Wildlife Biologist

An upland sandpiper looks out from it’s perch atop a post. Photo courtesy of USFWS.

In partnership with the USFWS New Jersey Field Office, CWF surveys a small population of upland sandpipers and other grassland birds at the McGuire Airfield in Burlington County, New Jersey. The upland sandpiper is a state endangered species nesting at only a few locations in New Jersey. Upland sandpiper, like many other grassland birds, require vast expanses of grassland habitat for nesting and caring for their chicks. Airports tend to be favorable locations consisting of maintained grassland habitat and limited human disturbance.

A total of 35 upland sandpiper observations were made at the McGuire Airfield in 2021, with an average of roughly 8 observations per survey. The overall number of upland sandpiper observations was comparable to 2018’s total of 37 sightings, but the average sightings per survey was lower than last year’s average, as well as the averages since 2017. Based on these observations, at least two to three pairs of upland sandpipers were nesting at the airfield this season. This estimation of nesting pairs is also lower than previous survey years.

Locating upland sandpiper nests is difficult due to the expansive habitat and the birds’ behavior. Most upland sandpipers nest in areas larger than 100 acres with relatively short grass heights. When nesting, the birds tend to fly in circles and loudly call from above to draw attention away from nests and unfledged chicks. Upland sandpipers are also easily disturbed during surveys, often taking flight long before surveyors get close to the nest or chicks. Additionally, the upland sandpipers’ song and call, a whistling “quip-ip-ip-ip, pulippulip, or whip-whee-ee-you,” can also be heard over a long distance.

Surveys during the breeding season from May to July have been ongoing over the past five years to determine the presence of breeding upland sandpipers in relation to ongoing habitat restoration efforts. Restoration efforts include the eradication of invasive plants and seeding of native warm season grasses. Restoration efforts will help conserve nesting habitat for grassland birds and help further limit human disturbance by minimizing mowing activities.

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