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Dunlin Calidris alpina


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credit: sannse/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Scolopacidae, Sandpipers view all from this family

Description ADULT SUMMER Has a reddish brown back and cap, whitish underparts with bold black belly, and streaking on neck. Males are more boldly marked than females, but considerable variation exists within sexes and hence overlap occurs. Bill and legs are dark in all birds. ADULT winter Has uniform dull brownish gray upperparts, mostly dingy white underparts, and dark legs and bill. JUVENILE Has pale-fringed reddish brown and black feathers on back; some align so pale fringes form "V" patterns. Underparts are whitish, but with black streaklike spots on breast and (diagnostically for juvenile shorebird) on flanks too; head and neck are brown and streaked.

Dimensions Length: 8 1/2" (22 cm)

Habitat Locally very common. Nests on Arctic tundra marshes. In winter favors estuaries and mudflats. Occasional at inland wetlands on migration.

Observation Tips Easy to find on coasts in winter. Get to know it in summer and winter plumagesóit is the yardstick by which other small waders can be judged.

Range Northwest, Western Canada, Texas, Southeast, California, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Eastern Canada, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Alaska, Great Lakes, Southwest, New England

Voice Utters a preeit call; display flight "song" comprises a series of whistles.

Discussion The archetypal small, coastal wader in winter. Represented globally by several races, each with subtly different bill lengths; ssp. hudsonia breeds in Arctic Canada and is by far the commonest subspecies on the East Coast outside the breeding season. Forms flocks outside breeding season. Sexes are subtly different in summer, but separation is tricky.