Semipalmated Sandpiper Status and Conservation Needs

For more than 25 years, NJ Audubon has been at the forefront in protecting and restoring the Delaware Bay as an important shorebird migration stopover.  Involvement began in 1982, with the first aerial surveys of the Delaware Bayshore (both NJ and Delaware) to document the numbers and species utilizing the area for rest, as well as taking advantage of the rich refueling food source provided by the breeding horseshoe crab eggs.  Data throughout the 1980s and 1990s began to document an obvious and significant decline in shorebird numbers.  This dramatic trend led to expanded research projects by NJ Audubon and partner organizations.  These projects sought to establish a positive correlation between shorebird population declines and the coinciding over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs for use as bait in the rapidly expanding conch industry. 
Current research at NJ Audubon focuses on the migration ecology of the Semipalmated  Sandpiper (Calidris pusilla).  Our work also includes research on the Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla), Dunlin (Calidris alpina) and Short-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus griseus).  However, to adequately address the conservation needs of these shorebirds, the project has expanded internationally to include not only the Delaware Bay, but also wintering and migration staging areas along the northeast coast of South America, specifically French Guiana, Suriname and northeastern Brazil.  We are also working with Manomet Center for Conservation Science and the Arctic Shorebird Demographic Network (ASDN) to better understand links between breeding populations in the Arctic and Subarctic and migration and wintering populationsl.

This program has 4 major projects:
1. Delaware Bay Shorebird Conservation Project
2. Monitoring Semipalmated Sandpiper populations on wintering grounds in Suriname and French Guiana
3. International Conservation Plan for Semipalmated Sandpiper
4. Training South America Scientists for long-term Monitoring 

JOIN US: To make a tax-deductible contribution earmarked specifically to help NJ Audubon’s Research Department continue its Shorebird Research and Monitoring Program, contact Brian O'Leary, Vice President for Development, at 908-204-8998 extension 16. Or, you can click here to donate online.

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Delaware Bay Shorebird Conservation Project

The goal of the Delaware Bay Shorebird Conservation Project is to recover Delaware Bay shorebird populations to healthy levels using an integrated research, education and conservation approach.

Photo by Tony Geiger 

2011 Field Technicians in Delaware Bay

International team member Sophie Maille

Have you seen my SESA? Bird banded in Delaware Bay recaptured
in Suriname

Brazil researchers visit Delaware Bay

Delaware Bay shorebird recaptured in Brazil

2014 Field Expedition to Brazil 


2015 -- Contaminants in shorebirds migrating through Delaware Bay (click to download paper).


Monitoring Semipalmated Sandpiper Populations on their Wintering Grounds in Suriname and French Guiana


The study to follow and monitor the Semipalmated sandpiper  (Calidris pusilla) on their wintering grounds in Suriname and French Guiana launched in 2008 when Dr. David Mizrahi (NJA VP Research) met with Dr. Arie Spaans (Chairman of Friends of STINASU in Suriname) to form a  partnership, resulting in initial fieldwork in January of 2009.  Goals were to assess the abundance and distribution of SESA along historic wintering grounds as determined by aerial surveys in 1982.

NJ Audubon helps secure funds to aid game wardens in anti-poaching efforts in Suriname

US Ambassador to Suriname visits NJ Audubon field research team

International Comprehensive Conservation Plan for Semipalmated Sandpiper
Uniquely coded yellow flag
Photo by Eric Stiles

The overall goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive conservation strategy for the Semipalmated Sandpiper (SESA, Calidris pusilla) throughout its range.A comprehensive database of important sites throughout the Americas will produce a clear picture of habitat use both historically and at present.  Together, these data will provide an important tool to aid in the development of an international conservation plan for the species over the next decade.

Grant from Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund helps support international conservation efforts

Training South America Biologists for Long-term Monitoring

Each year, through our partnership with the NJ Coastal Heritage Trail Route, and the National Park Service Park Flight Project, we have hosted interns from Latin America to promote international opportunities for technical exchange and cooperation to protect shared migratory bird species and their habitats. We hosted international interns in 2010 from Columbia and French Guiana.

Shorebird Conservation expands to Brazil 

Brazil students visit USA