Calidris alpina
Family Scolopacidae

The dunlin is a small, chunky-bodied sandpiper that often probes for food along shorelines and beaches with its bill, hunched over intently.

Identifying Traits (both sexes):

  • When breeding, rusty reddish-brown above; in winter, pale brownish-grey above
  • Large, conspicuous black patch on underside during breeding season
  • In winter, chest is dully streaked with brown and underside is a dusty off-white
  • Bill is long, black, and droops downward at the tip
  • White eye-stripe usually visible, though not always well-defined
  • Black legs
  • Juvenile:  dull rusty wash predominates above, chest buffy, underside faintly spotted
  • Size: 16-22 cm (6-9”)
  • Weight: 48-64 g (1.5-2.0 oz)

Similar Species: The winter spotted sandpiper is browner, with yellow legs and a pale-based bill.

Voice: The dunlin’s only note is a highly nasal dreezp!

Habitat: Dunlins are usually found only at the seashore, where they frequent tidal flats and breakwaters.  In the far north of their range, they breed on the open tundra.

Range: The dunlin can be seen along most of the Atlantic coast during the winter, and they breed in the far north of Canada near the Arctic circle.

Interesting Facts: Dunlins who breed in Alaska have been known to move west when they fly south for the winter, sometimes arriving in Japan or eastern China.



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