Male Dunlin


Scientific name: Calidris alpina

Did you know: Dunlins have a unique “sewing machine” feeding action along coastal mudflats, making them fascinating to watch!

What Do Dunlins Look Like? (how to identify them)

Dunlins are the most commonly seen small waders along coastlines, characterised by their slightly down-curved beak and a distinct black belly patch in breeding plumage. 

During winter, they gather in impressive flocks, sometimes in the thousands, roosting in nearby saltmarshes, fields, and shorelines.

Differences Between Male And Female Dunlins

While male and female Dunlins are similar in appearance, the males are slightly more vibrant in colour during the breeding season. They have a darker belly, which sets them apart from the females.

What Do Dunlins Eat?

Dunlins have a diet rich in invertebrates. They feast on insects, snails, and worms, often seen foraging in groups along the coastal mudflats, picking up their food with precision.

Where Do Dunlins Live? (inc. migration info)

Dunlins are migratory birds, breeding in the Arctic or subarctic regions. They travel great distances in winter, heading south to Africa, southeast Asia, and even the Middle East. 

North American breeds migrate to the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, while European and Asian Dunlins often head to the Iberian Peninsula.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Dunlins)

The call of the Dunlin is a soft ‘peep’, while its display song is a harsh trill. These sounds are particularly prominent during the breeding season, adding a melodious backdrop to their habitats.

Fun Dunlin Facts (kid friendly)

  • Dunlins have a special third eyelid that acts like goggles underwater!
  • They perform a synchronised flight dance, especially during migration.
  • In breeding plumage, Dunlins sport a stylish black belly patch.
  • They can form flocks of thousands, a spectacular sight along coastlines.
  • Dunlins are known for their “sewing machine” feeding action.
  • These birds prefer to roost in large groups, creating a sense of community.
  • They are adaptable, living in both upland and coastal environments.
  • Dunlins are long-distance travellers, migrating thousands of miles each year.
  • They have a varied diet but primarily enjoy a good feast of insects and worms.
  • The Dunlin’s beak is a marvel of nature, perfectly curved for picking food from mudflats.

Dunlin Video

Facts About The Dunlin

Diet: Insects, snails and worms.
Bird Family: Sandpipers, snipes and phalaropes
Length: 16-20cm
Wingspan: 35-40cm
Weight: 40-50g
Scientific Name: Calidris alpina

The Dunlin Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

Dunlin Images

Male Dunlin Male
Female Dunlin Female
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