Arctic species: rare waders

Apart from the waders mentioned in previous posts, there are a few rare waders that breed in very low numbers on the archipelago. Those waders we don’t see a lot during our expeditions, but are always a highlight for the birders when we do. So, here they are:

Red-necked Phalarope

The Red-necked Phalarope is the rarer cousin of the Red Phalarope. It’s a regular breeder in Iceland, Scandinavia and the northern parts of the UK, but only a scarce breeder on Spitsbergen. Actually, the place with one of highest chances of seeing them might be Adventdalen, just outside Longyearbyen.


Then there are three of the smaller waders that can be seen next to the much more common Purple Sandpiper. The most common of those is the Dunlin. Adult birds can easily be distinguished from Purple Sandpipers by their black belly and more warmer brown upper parts. They are more common breeders in Scandinavia, the UK and Iceland.


Most people in Western Europe know Sanderlings as those light grey fluff balls that follow the waves on the beach in autumn and winter in search for food. They breed on the tundra in the high Arctic of Siberia and Greenland and in very low numbers on Spitsbergen. Sometimes we’re lucky and we find a few, most often on Smeerenburg. In summer plumage, it has a warm red-brown breast and head, which makes it stand out easily with the Purple Sandpipers.

Red Knot

The last of the scarce waders is the Red Knot. Another bird that can be found in winter in Western Europe and breeds on the tundra of Greenland and Siberia. I’ve only seen it once or twice and maybe it occasionally breeds on the archipelago. Red Knots have a warm red brown head, breast and belly in summer.

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