Identification: The Dunlin is our commonest small wader but its fat shape and slightly down-curved bill are worth studying so you'll find it easier to pick out something rarer. Most Dunlin in spring and autumn show signs of either the black belly which is gained in summer or black spots on the flanks which are typical of juvenile plumage. Only in winter plumage do they have completely clean flanks and bellies and then you have to rely on shapes and sizes to identify them. In flight, the Dunlin is one of a dozen small waders which show a pale wing bar and white sides to the tail.
Habitat: Breeds on grassy moorland and peat bogs. Winters on estuaries, saltmarshes and sandy shores.
Distribution: A fairly common breeder on upland moors and some coastal marshes in the north of England and Scotland. Very common on passage and as a winter visitor, particularly around the coast but also inland.
Breeds mostly on moors and tundra in northern Europe but much more familiar as one of the commonest winter and passage visitors to wetland areas. They are present in huge numbers on some estuaries eg. over 300 000 on the Waddensee (Holland/Germany) in January.
Population: There are an estimated 9 150 pairs in Britain, with about 175 pairs in Ireland. Roughly 532 000 birds winter in Britain, plus 100 000-150 000 in Ireland.
The minimum European breeding population is estimated at 290 000 pairs, with a minimum total of around one million individuals wintering.