; class Aves, order Charadriiformes)
A family of small to large wading birds, most of which are cryptically patterned with brown, grey, black, and white plumage. (Snipe (15 species of Gallinago) have a varying number of tail feathers, the outer ones adapted to produce a vibratory sound in display flight.) Their bills are short to long, and straight, decurved, or recurved. Their necks are medium to long, their wings long, and their legs short to long. (Calidris alba (sanderling) lacks a hind toe.) They feed on invertebrates, and usually nest on the ground. They inhabit open areas, usually near water, flocking in coastal areas outside the breeding season. The eight species of Numenius (curlews and whimbrel) and 18 Calidris species breed in tundra and upland regions, where they are ground-nesting, and in winter they are found on shores and estuaries: they are highly migratory. Sandpipers (11 species of Tringa) inhabit coastal and inland waters and wet meadows. Godwits (four species of Limosa) breed in Arctic regions of N. America, Europe, and Asia, and migrate to S. America, Africa, southern Asia, and Australia. The ruff (Philomachus pugnax), in which the male is larger than the female, has a large neck ruff, variable in colour, and ear tufts in its breeding plumage; males display in a ‘lek’. Ruffs breed in wetland meadows and inhabit fields and marshes in winter. There are 23 genera in the family, with 85 species, found world-wide.
Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences.