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The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a medium-sized shorebird. Its head appears small relative to its body, and it has a short black bill and bright yellow-ochre (green-brown) or yellow-orange legs. Its neck appears long because of its small head and upright posture. It has a "buff" (pale peach or yellowy-tan) coloured breast and a mottled, dark brown and buff back that looks "scaly" because of the strong tone variation between these two colours.

Weight: 46 to 78 g (1.6 to 2.8 oz). Length: 18 to 20 cm (7.1 to 7.8 in).

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The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a shorebird that breeds in the central Canadian Arctic, including Banks Island and western Victoria Island in the NWT. 

Range map information

Buff-breasted Sandpiper habitat use varies throughout the breeding season on the tundra. Breeding displays usually start on dry, unvegetated, snow-free areas and move to moister grass and sedge meadows as the season progresses. Nests are typically in sedge patches near dry display areas and close to water sources, or in wetlands near large waterbodies or rivers. Foraging is usually on sparsely vegetated areas, especially along the banks of streams and rivers.

The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a polygynous species. This means one male may court and breed with several females. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is the only North American shorebird with a lek mating system. Males gather at display areas (called "leks") to perform competitive displays to attract mates. After mating, females care for the eggs and young without help from the males.

While most male shorebirds stop displaying once nests are established and the breeding season progresses, Buff-breasted Sandpiper males may continue to display to females already on established nests and even while on migration.

Once abundant in North America, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper population declined significantly due to extensive market hunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s. 

The species is thought to have declined further in recent decades, likely driven by factors affecting habitat quality at migratory stopover sites and wintering areas. These factors include the conversion of native grasslands to agricultural land, pesticide exposure, wind farm development, and climate change effects. 

Potential threats in the Northwest Territories include breeding habitat degradation from climate change and industrial development, as well as direct disturbance at nest sites from human activities, such as resource exploration and development.

COSEWIC assessed Buff-breasted Sandpiper as Special Concern in 2012 because of population decline and threats. Buff-breasted Sandpiper was listed as Special Concern under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2017. 

Buff-breasted Sandpipers and their nests are protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.

A national management plan for Buff-breasted Sandpiper is available on the federal Species at Risk Public Registry