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Monday, August 17, 2015

An Old Shorebird in Brooklyn

Last year I posted a piece about a Red Knot that has become known as "Moonbird". This long-distance migrant was banded over 21 years ago and has traveled the equivalent distant of the Earth to the Moon and halfway back. Now it appears that Brooklyn has had a visit from a close runner up.

At this time of year many of us local Brooklyn birders spend our early mornings looking for shorebirds at Plum(b) Beach. So far it has been an unremarkable season with mostly the expected species seen. Sanderlings are one of the common species seen along the coast during migration with a small percentage of them remaining through the winter along the ocean beaches. On August 9th my friend Heydi took a photograph of one that was sporting several blue bands. She entered the information on the website "", which maintains a database of banded shorebirds. The response from their database administrator was very surprising:


From: "Banded Birds"
Date: August 16, 2015 at 5:43:25 PM EDT
Subject: RE: Recent report to

Hi Heydi,

Thanks so much for continuing to report to The sanderling you reported is an “oldie!” Prior to the use of coded flags, many shorebirds were banded as cohorts, i.e. many birds banded in like manner to denote time and/or place. The combo you saw was used in 1998 during spring stopover along the Delaware Bay on the NJ side. Also, the upper right looks white in the photo, but that is the metal USGS band.



Jeannine M Parvin
Database Administrator


That would make this bird at least 17 years old! Sanderlings breed in the high arctic with most wintering in South America. They travel, on average, anywhere from 1,900 miles to 6,200 miles from their wintering sites to their breeding grounds. Based on those numbers, Mr. Plumb Beach Sanderling has flown anywhere from 64,600 to 210,800 miles since he was banded! Pretty impressive for an animal that only weighs, on average, 60 grams (about 24 pennies). At the far end of that scale, however, our tireless Brooklyn visitor would still need to make the annual journeys a few more times to arrive at the Moon. He made it this far, so I'm rooting for him.

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