The little stint (Calidris minuta or Erolia minuta) is a diminutive wader species known for its petite size, akin to that of a sparrow. In the picturesque landscapes of Sri Lanka, it goes by the charming names of “Punchi Siliwatua” and “Punchi Hinna”. These little stints are prevalent in both wet and dry regions of the lowlands, although they are more commonly spotted in the arid terrains. Among the waders dwelling in Sri Lanka, they hold the distinction of being the smallest of them all.
These avian travellers make their way to Sri Lanka in large numbers as winter migrants. Their flight is marked by agility and precision, with flocks displaying a distinctive turning behavior while airborne. But their journey extends far beyond Sri Lanka, these little stints breed in the arctic regions of Europe and Asia, embarking on long-distance migrations that take them south to Africa and South Asia. Occasionally, they become vagrants in North America and Australia.
The little stint is easily distinguished by its small size, fine dark bill, dark legs, and rapid movements. Notably, it sports a unique combination of features, including a fine bill tip, unwebbed toes, and a long primary projection. Their vocalisations are characterised by a sharp “stit”. In winter, their plumage showcases brownish-grey upper parts, complemented by a striking white belly. Their breeding adults display a distinct orange wash on the breast and a white throat, making identification easier.
These social birds are often found in herds, foraging actively for small invertebrates along coastal mudflats and the edges of inland pools. Their feeding habits involve picking prey from the surface, and by noon, they huddle together in a tranquil moment of respite. The little stint falls under the purview of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), highlighting the importance of safeguarding their habitats. When it comes to reproduction, these birds lay 3–5 eggs in a scrape on bare ground. They are polygamous, and both males and females may incubate separate clutches. With their captivating characteristics and intriguing behaviours, the little stint is a testament to the beauty and diversity of avian life, leaving an indelible mark on the natural tapestry of Sri Lanka and beyond
(Photograph from Mr. Andrew Moon)