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From Opus

C. a. alpina summer adult. Bright; short-billed.Photo © by Stein NilsenSvalbard, Norway, 3 August 2012
C. a. alpina summer adult. Bright; short-billed.
Photo © by Stein Nilsen
Svalbard, Norway, 3 August 2012
Calidris alpina


[edit] Identification

Length 17–21 cm (6ΒΎ-8ΒΌ in), wingspan 32–36 cm, weight 33–85 g
Black bill, with de-curved tip; black legs.

Adult winterPhoto © by Andy HallTexel, Netherlands, 17 October 2016
Adult winter
Photo © by Andy Hall
Texel, Netherlands, 17 October 2016


  • Crown and upperparts rufous, streaked darker
  • Wings: greyish brown, with pale bar and dark tips
  • White sides to rump and tail
  • White breast with darker streaks
  • Black belly
  • White undertail coverts


  • Rufous areas become grey and belly all white


  • Similar to summer adult above but fringes less rufous; underparts pale buff breast grading to white belly with blackish streaks on breast and flanks

[edit] Distribution

Breeding birds from northern Europe and Asia winter in western and southern Europe, Africa, and southern Asia. Those that breed in Alaska and the Canadian Arctic move down to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America.

[edit] Taxonomy

JuvenilePhoto © by CJWSmeale, Isle of Man, 31 July 2004
Photo © by CJW
Smeale, Isle of Man, 31 July 2004

Most closely related to the Purple Sandpiper β€” Rock Sandpiper species pair, and after them, to Sanderling[1].

[edit] Subspecies

Juvenile in flightPhoto © by maliElmley Marshes, Kent, 15 September 2016
Juvenile in flight
Photo © by mali
Elmley Marshes, Kent, 15 September 2016

Depending on authority, nine[2] or ten[3] subspecies are accepted:

  • C. a. arctica:
  • C. a. schinzii:
  • C. a. alpina:
  • C. a. centralis:
  • North central to northeastern Russia; winters India (included in C. a. alpina by some authorities[2])
  • C. a. sakhalina:
  • C. a. kistchinskii:
  • Sea of Okhotsk to Kuril Islands; wintering grounds unknown
  • C. a. actites:
  • Northern Sakhalin; wintering grounds unknown
  • C. a. arcticola:
  • C. a. pacifica:
  • C. a. hudsonia:

The subspecies are distinguishable by bill length, and intensity of colour of the summer plumage. Winter and juvenile plumage birds are often not reliably distinguishable to subspecies, with only bill length differing.

[edit] Habitat

Breeds on low or high ground, in wet short-grass or tundra habitats; on migration (in autumn, adults in late July-August, juveniles in late August-October), found in a variety of marshy or coastal habitats, but most numerous on tidal flats or on banks of seaweed on shallow shores.

Coastal mudflats and beaches.

[edit] Gallery

Click images to see larger version

[edit] Behaviour

They form huge winter flocks, mainly on tidal mudflats (less often in freshwater), often mixing with Ringed Plover, Red Knot, and other Calidris species.

[edit] Diet

The diet includes insects, snails and worms.

[edit] Breeding

They nest in a shallow scrape on the ground lined with vegetation. The 4 eggs are incubated by both adults. The male cares for the young.

[edit] Vocalisation

Song: a trill.
Flight Call: treep or chreet

Listen to Dunlin sound clip

[edit] References

  1. Gibson, R., & Baker, A. (2012). Multiple gene sequences resolve phylogenetic relationships in the shorebird suborder Scolopaci (Aves: Charadriiformes). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 64: 66-72.
  2. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from
  3. Gill, F & D Donsker (Eds). 2019. IOC World Bird List (v9.2). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.9.2. Available at
  4. [ Avibase]
  5. Wikipedia contributors. (2020, February 1). Dunlin. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:40, February 22, 2020, from
  6. Fitter, R. S. R. (1966). Pocket Guide to British Birds. London: Collins. ISBN 0 00 212019 4
  7. Grant, P.J., K. Mullarney, L. Svensson, D. Zetterstrom (1999) Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. Harpercollins Pub Ltd ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  8. Warnock, N. D. and R. E. Gill (1996). Dunlin (Calidris alpina), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.
  9. Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Boesman, P. (2020). Dunlin (Calidris alpina). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 22 February 2020).
  10. Chandler, R. (2009). Shorebirds of North America, Europe, and Asia: A photographic guide. Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 1 40 810790 2

[edit] Recommended Citation

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