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Lil peep at Dunlins!

Dunlins are a small shorebird found along our coasts during the winter. When they are here dunlins are in their non-breeding plumage and can look similar to other shorebirds upon a quick glance. Identifying shorebirds on the beach can seem overwhelming and tedious but a great way to get better at shorebird ID is taking photos of the groups of birds and comparing the birds later. Another helpful tool is using a scope or more powerful binoculars that allow you to get a great view of the bird! 


a flock of shorebirds standing next to a body of water

  Dunlin to the right of sandpipers on Capers!

Belonging to the sandpiper family, (Scolopacidae), dunlins are a similar build to most sandpipers. They are robin sized birds with a chunky body, short neck, and medium-ish length legs. In non-breeding plumage a helpful identifying factor of the dunlin is its long bill that is slightly curved at the tip. In breeding plumage the back is a rusty color and has a big black patch on its belly. 

Like many shorebirds, dunlins will run along the shoreline foraging for food. They will probe their beaks into the sand to look for invertebrates to snack on. Unlike other sandpiper species, they only probe about a quarter-inch deep or less! They winter along estuaries or salt marshes and breed in subarctic to arctic tundra. While migrating, dunlins have been seen foraging by farm or sewage treatment ponds, damp fields, and other areas that the land is submerged by 2 inches or less of water. 

In North America there are three breeding populations. Since 2006 scientists have found that the population in Northern Alaska has declined by 30%. Some speculate that habitat loss of wintering habitat could be part of their population decline. If you’d like to read more about dunlins or check out a helpful comparison tool for shorebirds, check out this link! 

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