Did You Know? Incredible Dunlin Facts

Dunlin facts about the dunlin winter plumage.

The dunlin (Calidris Alpina) is a small-sized shorebird that belongs to the family Scolopacidae and is a part of a group of waders seen on beaches. It has a plump body, and its plumage is white and dull brown in color. They were once referred to as red-backed sandpipers, which had a dark black spot on their back. Dunlins (Calidris Alpina) have a long bill that is curved towards the tip and a short neck. They are found in large flocks in the arctic region along coastal areas, seashores, and estuaries in Northern Alaska. Tundras and grasslands are their preferred nesting areas, and the breeding grounds are the Holarctic region and the British Isles.

Dunlin winter their plumage is quite different from their breeding plumage and renders the dunlin bird a uniquely attractive appearance with its breeding plumage. After reading these interesting facts about the dunlin sandpiper, do check our other articles on the short-eared owl and the yellow-eyed penguin as well.


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Marine worms, insects

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

3-4 eggs per clutch

How much do they weigh?

1.7-2.7 oz

How long are they?

6.7-8.3 in

How tall are they?

13-14 in

What do they look like?

Different winter plumage, breeding plumage, and spring/summer plumage

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Nest predation, climate change, avians diseases

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Estuaries, coastal regions, tundra, grasslands


North America





Scientific Name

Calidris Alpina





Dunlin Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a dunlin?

The dunlin (Calidris Alpina) is a wader bird, which has 11 different species. A few species of dunlins migrate for long distances, while others cover short distances and do not leave their nest unprotected for long stretches of time.

What class of animal does dunlin belong to?

Dunlin (family Scolopacidae) belongs to the class of Aves and is a small-sized wader bird that primarily feeds on insects and worms and seen on beaches in North America. The family Scolopacidae is spread throughout the Arctic region, where these nesting birds also congregate in large flocks for breeding.

How many dunlins are there in the world?

The population of dunlins is stable, and their conservation status is listed as of the Least Concern. A severe decrease in their population has been recorded due to habitat loss, diseases, and predation of their eggs.

Where does a dunlin live?

Dunlins can be found along the coast of the ocean, estuaries, and other water bodies. These nesting birds feed on small fishes, which are found in shallow waters or near the shoreline in North America.

What is a dunlin's habitat?

Dunlins are found throughout the Arctic beaches and Subarctic regions. This bird species nests in tundras and grasslands or mangroves. These birds of North America are also found in ponds and ridges where the ground is wet. Hummocks, coastal lagoons, and marshes are also where dunlins make their habitat. Dunlin breeding in northern Alaska moves westwards. This way they skip Alaska and North America and migrate towards the eastern side of Siberia and then onwards to Japan and China.

Who do dunlins live with?

Dunlins are social wader birds that are often found in small or large flocks or nests. This bird species is often seen on the edges of marshes or ponds, hunting for small fish and feeding on worms with other members in their territory. Males do not allow males of other territories to interact with the females of their territory, but will feed with them.

How long does a dunlin live?

The average lifespan of dunlin is five years, but some specimens of the dunlin have been recorded to have a life expectancy of 10 years. This bird species is often are killed by other predators when these birds flock together or are found feeding near coastlines or sand flats.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season in dunlins starts in May and continues until mid-July in their breeding grounds. These birds breed only once per year and produce a single clutch. The average litter size in dunlins is three to six eggs. The eggs are laid at different intervals, with one egg per day. The incubation period lasts for 20-22 days and both the male and female dunlin incubate the eggs. After the nestlings are born and start flying, the female does not feed the chicks directly but leads them to locations where food is available.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of North American dunlins is listed as of Least Concern but their population is decreasing due to typical reasons of change in climate unsuitable for survival, nest predation, and loss of habitat.

Dunlin Fun Facts

What do dunlins look like?

Dunlin's winter plumage ensures that this bird is gray above and white underneath.

North American dunlins have a long bill that is curved towards the tip and black belly patch. These birds have black belly patches and marks on their flanks and back. The color difference between the juveniles and adults can be seen. The adults are dull brown and white in color, while the chicks are brown in color on the top with two ‘v’ shapes that are white in color.

How cute are they?

Dunlins are not very cute. Members of this bird species have a very dull color and do not stand out from other birds. These birds don't have any other special characteristics and their behavior is similar to other waders.

How do they communicate?

Dunlins communicate through body displays and calls. The calls are loud and high-pitched. The peep of the sandpiper can also be one of their calls. Males are protective of their territories and do not let males of other territories interact with the females belonging to their territory. Their flight call is essentially a continuous high-pitched 'kreee'.

How big is a dunlin?

The average body mass of a dunlin is 1.7-2.7 oz, while the body length is 6.7-8.3 in. The length of their wingspan is 13-14 in. Members of this bird species are medium-sized shorebirds found mostly in the Arctic and subarctic regions.

How fast can a dunlin fly?

Dunlins fly at average speed and sometimes catch their prey mid-flight with the help of their long bills. These birds also migrate from their breeding grounds to Northern Atlantic and Pacific coasts and cover a short distance.

How much does a dunlin weigh?

The average weight of dunlin is approximately 1.83 oz. Most dunlins weigh between 1.7-2.7 oz. They are small-sized waders, and differences in weight between the male and the female occur.  

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for the male and female species of dunlins. They only are named after their sexes and are called male dunlins and female dunlins.

What would you call a baby dunlin?

Baby dunlins do not have a distinctive name. They are called nestlings, hatchlings, chicks, or fledglings. Juvenile dunlins have v-shaped white marks on the back of their body. Baby dunlins are mostly looked after by the male parent and the female abandons them as soon as they are born.

What do they eat?

Dunlins eat mollusks, larvae, worms, earthworms, bloodworms, flies, wasps, spiders, beetles, crane flies, caterpillars, clams, shrimps, snails, blue mussels, amphipods, midges, marine worms, crustaceans, small fish, and plant material like seeds. They also eat insects on the tundra and worms, snails, and crustaceans on the wintering grounds, by probing the mud with their bill through a quick stitching motion. But they do not go deep in the mud on the wintering grounds and feed on creatures just at the top of the mud.

Are they friendly?

Yes, dunlins are very friendly and sociable with other species of wintering birds like sandpipers and other waders.

Would they make a good pet?

No, dunlins would not make a good pet as they are very social and are found feeding with flocks of sandpipers and other waders. These wintering birds cannot live a solitary life and live in territories consisting of many members.

Did you know...

Dunlins are named after their dun-colored brown plumage. Dunlins often crossbreed with different species of sandpipers like the white-rumped sandpiper and the purple-sandpiper. Flocks of dunlins are called trips, flings, or flights.

What did the dunlin used to be called?

The dunlin was called the red-backed sandpiper.

What was the oldest dunlin on record?

The oldest dunlin ever recorded was 24 years old.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the mountain plover and the snowy plover.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Dunlin coloring pages.



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