Dunlin

Hey guys welcome back. Today’s little sandpiper is the dunlin. One of the more easy to ID shorebirds out there, well when they’re in breeding plumage that is. That breeding plumage is a striking, and unique, array featuring a reddish brown back, gray face, and black belly patch. At one time they were actually known as the red-backed sandpiper. Instead, today they’re known as the dunlin, which refers to its non-breeding plumage which is a very drab gray and light brown, and lacks that black belly patch.

The dunlin breed in the tundra of North America, and spend winters along the east, west, and Gulf coasts. Breeding birds in Alaska actually fly the other direction for winter, going across the Bering Strait and down the east coast of Asia to China, Japan and Russia. Only once have I seen dunlin with their signature black belly patch, and that was during an intermediate molt that saw the black patch beginning to go away. They are slightly larger than the “peeps” and have a fairly long, slightly downcurved bill. They love mudflats in wetlands and ponds, and thus aren’t typically seen on beaches. To be honest, I don’t have any good tips for telling apart non-breeding birds from other shorebirds. The lack of the black belly stumps me. I’ve been fortunate to see them in action, but aside from my first sighting which had a partial black belly, I’ve had to have them pointed out to me. Next up is a bird that’s fairly easy to ID, the Hudsonian Godwit. See you then!

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