Waders - Shorebirds



Waders or simply shorebirds belong to the rather large order of Charadriiformes. This group of birds shows a wide variety of many different species. From an ornithological perspective and also from the view of a wildlife photographer it is both interesting and also challenging, but also rewarding. 


It is challenging because of the identification, which is difficult. It is rewarding because one gets to learn a lot about quite a number of birds and it gives an extrodinary amount of pleasure just watching them going about their business.


In this article I am telling you about waders, what they have in common, give a list of species and where to watch them.


Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Oystercatcher with chicks


What are Waders all about?


In fact, when talking about waders we are talking quite a number of different families, all covered by a single term. Those families are: Oystercatcher, Stils and Avocets, Thick-knees, Coursers and Pratincoles, Plovers and Sandpipers, Stints, Godwits, Curlews, Snipe & Phalaropes.


Waders in the Western Palearctic


Because of the large number of species I only provide an oversight over the species somehow common in the Western Palearctic to keep it short and simple. The Western Palearctic covers the Atlantic islands, northern Africa, Europe, the Middle East and from there up north to the Caucasus. Most of us will probably not manage to travel all the spots available in that vast area. The species are as follows:




  • Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
  • Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
  • Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus)
  • Eurasian Stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus)
  • Senegal Thick-knee (Burhinus senegalensis)
  • Cream-coloured Courser (Cursorius cursor)
  • Collared Pratincole (Glareola pratincola)
  • Black-winged Pratincole (Glareola nordmanni)


Plovers and Lapwings


  • Little-ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius)
  • Common Ringed Plover (Charadrius hiaticula)
  • Semiplamated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus)
  • Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus)
  • Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus)
  • Kittlitz's Plover (Charadrius pecuarius)
  • Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)
  • Great Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
  • Eurasian Dotterel (Charadrius morinellus)
  • Caspian Plover (Charadrius asiaticus)
  • European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
  • Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva)
  • American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica)
  • Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
  • Spur-winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus)
  • Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus)
  • Sociable Lapwing (Vanellus gregarius)
  • White-tailed Lapwing (Vanellus leucurus)


Sandpipers, stints, curlews, snipes et al


  • Red Knot (Calidris canutus)
  • Sanderling (Calidris alba)
  • Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)
  • Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria interpres)
  • Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
  • Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea)
  • Broad-billed Sandpiper (Limicola falcinellus)
  • Temminck's Tint (Calidris temminckii)
  • Little Stint (Calidris minuta)
  • Long-toed Stint (Calidris subminuta)
  • Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla)
  • Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola)
  • Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus)
  • Common Sandpiper (Acitis hypoleucos)
  • Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus)
  • Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
  • Spotted Rendshank (Tringa erythropus)
  • Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia)
  • Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis)
  • Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
  • Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica)
  • Eurasian Curlew (Numenicus arquata)
  • Whimbrel (Numenicus phaeopus)
  • Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola)
  • Great Snipe (Gallinago media)
  • Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
  • Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus)
  • Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius)
  • Red-necked Phalarope (Palaropus lobatus)
  • Ruff (Philomachus pugnux)
  • Pectoral Sandpiper (Calidris melanotus)
  • Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata)


Oystercatcher with chick


Where to watch


Waders and shorebirds can actually be watched at any place that is adjacent to water. This includes the shoreline, dunes, in the vegetation of dunes hinterland, brackish water, wetland, large lakes, alongside river banks. Even former sewage fields have become home to waders nowadays. However, the best chances of watching larger numbers are along the shorelines. 


The Wadden Sea is the number one spot in Europe where we can watch waders during all seasons with probably the highest numbers between August to November and again in spring between February to May.


Another spot in the southern North Sea where large numbers of waders stay during migration is the German Island of Heligoland. This area is one of the most important resting place for migratory birds in the hole of Europe and it is worth going there twice a year.