It is springtime in Illinois, and the endangered upland sandpipers have returned to the Prairie State for the nesting season. These long-distance travelers make their way back to Northern Illinois in April each year from their wintering prairies of Brazil and Argentina in southern South America.

While it is winter here in Illinois, the upland sandpipers’ time in South America from November to March actually is the austral spring-summer on the Pampas. The upland sandpipers nest across the northern United States from east of the Rockies to the East Coast. The sandpipers seem to be more common throughout the great plains of the U.S. where habitat remains. Their summer range reaches north through the central provinces of Canada and north to Alaska.

The sandpipers have become more scarce in Illinois throughout the years, and observations are less frequent as they become somewhat of a rare breeder. There are signs though, that they might be adapting to some agricultural areas, at least in small numbers.

The upland sandpipers start arriving in Illinois in the middle of April producing eggs from the middle of May into June. They produce three to four in a clutch that have a 21-day incubation period. Both male and female birds take turns on the nest during the incubation.

The nests are constructed in depressions in the ground that are lined with leaf litter and grasses and are hidden by grasses arched over the top, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Early season mowing along roadways and intensive farming that removes nesting habitat has a negative impact on this struggling bird in Illinois.

From the Upland Sandpiper Conservation Plan (Vickery et al. 2010): The greatest threats the upland sandpiper faces are loss and degradation of habitat and the use of agrochemicals on both the breeding and nonbreeding grounds; and loss or degradation of critical stopover habitat.

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