Dunlins and a Curlew Sandpiper

© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M., W. & F. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland), Pohjolan linnut värikuvin. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.


Calidris alpina

  • Subspecies: ssp. alpina, ssp. schinzii
  • Family: Sandpipers – Scolopacidae
  • Appearance: Easily identified in summer plumage by black belly. Adults in winter plumage and juveniles resemble Little Stint, but are larger and have a longer bill.
  • Size: Length 17–21 cm, wingspan 32–36 cm, weight 35–62 g.
  • Nest: A small depression on the ground or a hummock in marshland, made of dry grass and leaves.
  • Breeding: 4 eggs laid in June, incubated by both parents for 21–24 days. Fledglings leave the nest soon after hatching and quickly learn to find food. They learn to fly within 18–21 days.
  • Occurrence: Scarce breeder along the west coast (ssp. schintzii, Southern Dunlin) and on the open high fells of northernmost Finnish Lapland (ssp. alpina). On migration may be seen feeding along muddy shores, on seaweed banks or outer islands in large flocks numbering hundreds or even thousands of birds. Finnish breeding population estimated at 300–600 pairs. The Southern Dunlin subspecies is classified as critically endangered and its breeding numbers in Finland are limited to 50–55 pairs. Measures are being taken to help its numbers increase through habitat restoration in overgrown coastal meadows.
  • Migration: By day or by night. Birds fly south between late June and October, returning April–May (May–June for nominal race). Winters in Western and Southern Europe and Africa.
  • Diet: Invertebrates.
  • Calls: A buzzing whistle “dzroo”.
  • Endangerment: In Finland ssp. schintzii is classified as Critically endangered, ssp alpina as Near threatened. European red list status Least concern.

Adult Dunlins are best recognised by the large black patch on their bellies, since they are the only smallish waders with such markings. Their backs are rusty brown with black patterning. Their necks and chests are marked with grey streaks. Adults in winter plumage and juveniles lack the black patch on their underparts. Their chests are marked with dark spots and their bellies are white. Dunlins’ beaks are a little longer than their heads, and curve downwards slightly. Their legs are olive green, their bills are black, and their irises are brown.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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