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Dunlin/Baltic dunlin

The common dunlin – numerous and common

The common dunlin is one of the most numerous birds in the Wadden Sea area, where each autumn sees more than about 400,000 birds. The migratory birds come from northern Scandinavia and stay in the Wadden Sea during the migration to wintering areas in the Mediterranean and Western Europe's coasts. The dunlin is a small wading bird which can most easily be identified during the summer months by its dark abdominal patch, and the long, slightly curved beak. By the Wadden Sea’s coastline, during the migration season, you can see them in huge flocks with a series of rapid, nervous throws, they alternately turn their back or belly towards the viewer in a coordinated movement, resulting in a wonderful display in the air.

Dunlin. © Biopix J Madsen


The Baltic dunlin - threatened and rare
A subspecies of dunlin has been named the Baltic dunlin. As a breeding bird, the numbers have fallen dramatically in Denmark; there were about 50,000 breeding pairs 100 years ago and today there are only about 150 couples left. It breeds primarily along the West Coast and in Vejlerne nature reserve. As a result of the severe decrease, a special effort ha s to be made to create better breeding grounds for the Baltic dunlin in the Wadden Sea area. The dunlin has its Danish name ”ryle” from the calling that the male makes in the breeding season; an accelerating ”ryle-ryle-ryle-ry-ryry”.
The dunlin is a small wading bird with a length of 18 cm and a wingspan of 35-40 cm. It has short legs and a slightly downward pointing beak. Its summer plumage has a large brown patch on the otherwise light belly. In winter, the whole belly becomes light. The dunlin finds its food in the water edges or on tidal flats, where it finds crustaceans, bristle worms, mussels, small animals and insects. Dunlin is a widespread breeding bird from Alaska and Canada, East Greenland, Iceland and Scandinavia to Russia and Siberia. The Baltic dunlin breeds in small numbers in Denmark.

Dunlin. © Biopix J Madsen