Dunlin

Nancy Barrett

Toronto, Canada

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Photographed at Hillman’s Marsh, near Point Pelee National Park, on Lake Erie, Ontario
Nikon D90 with 70-300 mm VR lens

The Dunlin, Calidris alpina, is a small wader, sometimes separated with the other “stints” in Erolia. It is a circumpolar breeder in Arctic or subarctic regions. Birds that breed in northern Europe and Asia are long-distance migrants, wintering south to Africa and southeast Asia. Birds that breed in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic migrate short distances to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America, although those nesting in Northern Alaska overwinter in Asia.

The Dunlin is highly gregarious in winter, sometimes forming large flocks on coastal mudflats or sandy beaches. Large numbers can often be seen swirling in synchronized flight on stop-overs during migration or on their winter habitat.

This bird is one of the most common and best-known waders throughout its breeding and wintering ranges, and it is the species with which other waders tend to be compared.

The Dunlin moves along the coastal mudflat beaches it prefers with a characteristic “sewing machine” feeding action, methodically picking small food items. Insects form the main part of the Dunlin’s diet on the nesting grounds; it eats mollusks, worms and crustaceans in coastal areas.

An adult Dunlin in breeding plumage shows the distinctive black belly which no other similar-sized wader possesses. The winter Dunlin is basically grey above and white below. Juveniles are brown above with two whitish “V” shapes on the back. They usually have black marks on the flanks or belly and show a strong white wingbar in flight

Artwork Comments

  • Terry Everson
  • Nancy Barrett
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