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Surfbird - BirdForum Opus

Breeding plumage
Photo © by smackay
Westport Jetty, Grays Harbor, Washington, USA, 25 April 2003
Calidris virgata

Aphriza virgata


Length 23–26 cm, wingspan 50–66 cm, weight 120–190 g
Breeding plumage

  • Dark streaks on brown head and breast
  • Dark spots on white underparts
  • Dark upperparts
  • Rusty orange, gray, and blackish mottled scapulars and mantle
Winter plumage
Photo © by Robert Scanlon
Panama, 18 January 2004
  • Black band at the end of the white-based tail
  • White wing bar
  • Short dark bill with orange-yellow base
  • Yellow legs

Non-breeding and immature birds

  • Upperparts and breast dark gray; belly streaked white
  • Single white wingbar and white rump and tail base

Similar species

Breeding plumage pattern very similar to Great Knot; differs from that markedly though in its much shorter bill, and yellow legs. In winter plumage, some resemblance to an outsize Rock Sandpiper.


Breeds on alpine tundra in central Alaska and northwestern Yukon; winters on rocky coasts from southern Alaska to Straits of Magellan, Chile


Photo © by raulroa
Playa del Rey, California, United States, 28 December 2005

This is a monotypic species[1]. Formerly thought to be of uncertain relationship possibly close to turnstones and placed in its own genus Aphriza, but recently shown by genetic studies to be closely related to Great Knot and therefore transferred to join it in the genus Calidris[2].


Rocky shoreline and tundra.


Often flocks with Black Turnstones.


The clutch consits of 4 eggs which are laid on the ground, the depression being lined with vegetation. Both adults care for the young, who feed themselves.


Includes insects, seeds, molluscs and crustaceans.


Song on breeding grounds is highly structured and harsh-sounding, comprising rapidly repeated three note phrases.


Strongly migratory; mainly along coast, but few birds may overfly Western USA during northward migration.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gibson, R., & Baker, A. (2012). Multiple gene sequences resolve phylogenetic relationships in the shorebird suborder Scolopaci (Aves: Charadriiformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 64: 66–72.
  3. Senner, S. E. and B. J. McCaffery (2020). Surfbird (Calidris virgata), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.surfbi.01
  4. Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Surfbird (Calidris virgata). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53920 on 29 March 2020).
  5. Chandler, R. (2009). Shorebirds of North America, Europe, and Asia: A photographic guide. Princeton Univ. Press
  6. Wikipedia contributors. (2020, March 1). Surfbird. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:25, March 29, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Surfbird&oldid=943422582

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