The Spotted Sandpiper, found along the edges of just about any water source, is probably most easily recognized by the habit of bobbing its tail up and down, or “teetering,” almost constantly while foraging on the ground. In fact, this tendency has earned the bird the nickname “teeter-tail.” The function of this motion has not been determined. Teetering gets faster when the bird is nervous, but stops when the bird is aggressive or courting.
In flight, Spotted Sandpipers take off with a frantic burst of wing flaps, and then glide for the remainder of their usually short aerial journeys just a foot or two above the water’s surface. These birds are usually encountered individually or in groups of fewer than ten.