The Scolopacidae are a large family of waders, (known as shorebirds in North America).
The majority of species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Different lengths of bills enable different species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food.
Many of the smaller species found in coastal habitats, particularly but not exclusively the calidrids, are often named as “Sandpipers”, but this term does not have a strict meaning, since the Upland Sandpiper is a grassland species.
This large family is often further subdivided into groups of similar birds. These groups do not necessarily consist of a single genus, but as presented here they do form distinct monophyletic evolutionary lineages (Thomas et al, 2004). The groups, with species numbers in parentheses, are:
- Curlews (8, genus Numenius)
- Upland Sandpiper (1, genus Bartramia)
- Godwits (4, genus Limosa)
- Dowitchers (3, genus Limnodromus)
- Snipe and woodcocks (about 25, genera Coenocorypha, Lymnocryptes, Gallinago and Scolopax)
- Phalaropes (3, genus Phalaropus)
- Shanks and tattlers (16, genera Xenus, Actitis, and Tringa which now includes Catoptrophus and Heteroscelus)
- Polynesian sandpipers (1 extant, 3-5 extinct, genus Prosobonia)
- Calidrids and turnstones (about 25, mostly in Calidris which might be split up into several genera. Other genera currently accepted are Aphriza, Eurynorhynchus, Limicola, Tryngites, and Philomachus, in addition to the 2 Arenaria turnstones)