Dunlins in breeding and nonbreeding plumage

/, Florida, Fort De Soto County Park, Pinellas County/Dunlins in breeding and nonbreeding plumage

Dunlin in nonbreeding plumageDunlin in nonbreeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 400mm, natural light

This is a Dunlin (Calidris alpina) in nonbreeding plumage, the image was taken at Fort De Soto’s north beach in Florida during the month of December a few years ago. During the winter Dunlins have dull gray-brown backs and heads with light-colored streaked breasts. These hardy shorebirds winter along coastlines from southern Alaska south to Florida and Mexico.

Dunlin in breeding plumageDunlin in breeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 160, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 300mm, natural light

This image shows a Dunlin in breeding plumage also taken at Fort De Soto’s north beach in May a few years ago about the time this shorebird would start its migration to Arctic and sub-Arctic areas of Alaska where it breeds on the tundra near ponds.

Dunlins exhibit a vast difference between nonbreeding and breeding plumage, so different that a novice birder might mistakenly believe that they were two different species. It is always handy to have images of Dunlins in breeding and nonbreeding plumage for comparison.

This small shorebird’s lifespan can be up to 24 years!



  1. Posts from the Past – Shorebirds October 19, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    […] see this post please click here or click on the image to the […]

  2. The Dunlin gets the worm August 17, 2014 at 4:36 am

    […] think that Dunlins are rather plain in their nonbreeding plumage (and they are compared to their breeding plumage) but I find this phase of plumage to be subtly […]

  3. M. Firpi August 17, 2012 at 4:35 am

    Their brownish colour is striking during breeding.

  4. Susan August 16, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    This is awesome, I’ve never heard of these birds, the photos you present here will help me identify them if I ever do, thank you for sharing:)

    • Mia McPherson August 19, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Susan, I really hope you get to see & photograph Dunlins.

  5. Stu August 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Wonderful color and clarity to these images Mia.

    • Mia McPherson August 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Thanks for your comment Stu!

  6. Carol Mattingly August 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I’m learning so much about birds from your posts Mia. Way to go. Carol

    • Mia McPherson August 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Thank you Carol, I’m glad you are learning more about birds from my posts!

  7. Syl Lobato August 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

    The plumage in the breeding bird is fabulous and you have captured each detail in a picture perfect photo..

  8. Laurence Butler August 16, 2012 at 7:18 am

    Impressive! They look like they have such heavy noses too.

    • Mia McPherson August 19, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      Thank you Laurence, the bill does look heavy!

  9. Dan Huber August 16, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Great shots. I love how different these birds can look in different plumages – makes the ID a challenge.

    • Mia McPherson August 19, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      Thankd Dan, when I first started photographing Dunlins I thought they were two different bird species.

Comments are closed.