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Calidris alpina

A small wading bird which comes to the Solent to spend the winter every year from Scandinavia and Russia. Other dunlin just pass through during their spring and autumn migrations, using the Solent coast as a pit-stop to rest and refuel.

All about dunlin

One of the smallest waders around the Solent so they can be very hard to spot, until it’s too late. They feed in groups along the shore, using their short beaks to take food like insects, molluscs and worms from the surface. You may see flocks of thousands all roosting together at high tide.

If you see them in flight, you might get lucky and see dunlin perform a murmuration – a group aerobatic display they use to confuse predators. As they turn, we alternately show the white of our bellies and the brown of our backs. If you are new to bird spotting you might confuse dunlin with sanderling, but they are paler and a bit smaller too; they also mostly stick to just sandy beaches.

Local spotlight

Although many thousands of dunlin can be seen around the Solent each year, making it an area of both international and national importance for this species, they are sadly declining in numbers here.

Conservation status

Dunlin are red listed in the UK. They are a qualifying feature for the Portsmouth Harbour and Chichester and Langstone Harbours Special Protection Areas – that means, when the sites were designated, a nationally significant number of this species used these coastlines in the winter.

Did you know?

They only weigh around 50 grams – that’s about the same weight as a kiwi fruit.