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An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Dunlin

Dec 17, 2019 02:33PM ● By Paul Spear

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the Dunlin

This weekly column provides photos of birds photographed locally in the Tijuana Estuary or on IB's beaches along with background on the bird.

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Dunlin (Calidris alpina), a small wading sandpiper. Their numbers wintering in some coastal areas have declined noticeably since the 1970s for unknown reasons. Habitat is on tidal flats, beaches, muddy pools, and on wet tundra in summer. During migration and winter, they are widespread in coastal habitats, mainly on mudflats, but also on sand beaches and rocky shores. Inland they live on lake shores, sewage ponds, and on flooded fields.The name Dunlin was first applied long ago, simply meaning "little dun-colored 

 (gray-brown) bird," a good description of the Dunlin in winter plumage. Spending the winter farther north than most of its relatives, this species is a familiar sight along the outer beaches during the cold months, as far north as New England and even southern Alaska. It is often in large flocks. In flight, these flocks may twist and bank in unison, in impressive aerial maneuvers. In breeding plumage, the Dunlin is so much more brightly colored as to seem like a different bird.

Dunlins forage by picking at items on the surface or by probing in mud, sometimes with very rapid "stitching" motion, probing several times per second. May feed by day or night. Their diet is mostly insects on tundra, and other small invertebrates on the coast. Diet varies with the season and location. On breeding grounds it feeds heavily on insects, including midges, crane flies, beetles, and others. On the coast it eats a wide variety of small creatures found in the intertidal zone, including marine worms, snails and other mollusks, amphipods and other crustaceans, sometimes small fish. Dunlins sometimes eat seeds and leaves.

During courting in display flight, the male circles slowly over the breeding territory, fluttering 

 and gliding, while singing. On the ground, the female reacts to intruding males by advancing, pausing to raise one wing high over her back. Courtship may involve ritualized nest-making movements. Nest site is on the ground, usually well hidden in or under a grass clump or in hummock. Their nest is a shallow scrape, lined with leaves and grass. Both sexes make scrapes, but the female chooses one and completes the nest.

Female Dunlins lay very rarely more than 4 eggs, olive or blue-green to buff, with brown blotches concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by both sexes (mostly female during night, male during day), with a gestation of 20-24 days. Downy young leave the nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend the young at first, but the female often departs after a few days. Young feed themselves, and are able to fly at age of 19-21 days.


I spotted some Dunlins in our beautiful Tijuana Estuary this week. Look for this bird, and other seasonal visitors while exploring the great trails there. 


 If you would like to see more of Bryan's Bird Photos you can click on this link:

Bryan Brillhart Photography or visit all the "Birds of the Week" at: Bird of the Week 


Bryan Brillhart

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Paul Spear, Publisher, and Editor of Dig Imperial Beach 



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