This book is a comprehensive synthesis of data from both published and unpublished studies and surveys of Purple Sandpipers over 50 years. Much of the data have been collected by a group of bird enthusiasts from Scottish ringing groups who have studied these birds on the wintering grounds in Scotland, Ireland and northern Norway, as well as the breeding grounds in Iceland, Norway and Svalbard.
Purple Sandpipers breed as far north as the polar deserts of Franz Josef Land, south to the mountains of Norway and Scotland. Each population has a different migration pattern after breeding. Those that breed in Iceland remain in Iceland for winter, whereas birds that breed in Arctic Canada cross the Atlantic in a 2.5-day flight during November and December to winter in Western Europe. For much of the year, they live on the exposed rocky seashores of the North Atlantic, feeding on periwinkles and mussels. Some even live in the gloom of the endless night, north of the Arctic Circle, contrasting with other sandpiper species that spend the winter in the tropics. The book draws comparisons with other waders, showing how Purple Sandpipers have adapted to their unusual way of life, and how the evolution of sexual size dimorphism has had a knock-on effect on the diet, juvenile survival and sex ratio. The book also describes the status of the Purple Sandpipers populations, which are declining. The steady warming of the Arctic is thought to be having a negative effect on sandpiper productivity, although it is not known if this is because of a decline in the food supply or an increase in predation.
Written in a popular style and richly illustrated with over 100 graphs and maps, and over 150 photographs, this book, which is fully referenced, is both informative and thought-provoking for all that have an interest in natural history.