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.

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


*I am away for awhile so I have prescheduled this post. Please feel free to share it with your friends & family.

Additional posts you might enjoy:

About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Pingback: Posts from the Past – Shorebirds

  2. Pingback: The Dunlin gets the worm

  3. Their brownish colour is striking during breeding.

  4. 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:)

  5. Wonderful color and clarity to these images Mia.

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

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

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

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

Comments are closed