Thursday, September 17, 2015


Another Shorebird Species

The Dunlin is a relatively common fall migrant in our area.  It is rare in the spring.  That is because its flight routes in the spring take it up the central flyway.  In the fall it migrates south down the coast lines (Atlantic and Pacific flyways).  

It is a bird of North America and Eurasia.  Here in North America it breeds from Alaska east to Hudson Bay.  It winters along the coast from southern Alaska and Massachusetts south to Mexico.  It nests on tundra and winters on beaches, mudflats, lakes and river shores.  

The Dunlin is a medium-sized shorebird often showing a short neck.  Its general appearance often appears hunch-backed.  The Dunlin has two plumages, breeding and non-breeding.  Here in Atlantic Canada we usually see the non-breeding plumage or something in between the two.  In the photo above we see the non-breeding plumage with a trace of the breeding plumage.  The non-breeding plumage shows a plain gray head, neck and upper parts, faintly spotted gray breast with a white chin, throat and belly.  It has a largish black bill which is slightly decurved (curved downwards).  The legs are black or gray.  The breeding plumage shows a distinctive reddish-brown back and a black patch on the belly.  The upper parts are whitish with fine dark streaks.  

Dunlin (showing incomplete breeding plumage)
The Dunlin is a later migrant in our area, often peak numbers appearing in September and October.  They feed on insects, marine worms, small crustaceans and snails.  They are tactile feeders probing food from the mud with their sensitive bills.  Although we do not get to see it, on the breeding grounds the male attracts the female by performing display flights.  I would like to see that!  Their song is a soft 'cheerp'.  
In the photo above the bird is showing a streak of reddish brown on the back, a remnant of the breeding plumage.  

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