Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


Search in the Encyclopedia

Dieren en planten

Waders   Sandpipers   Dunlin   Sanderling   Red knot   



length: 16-22 centimeters
wingspan: 35-40 centimeters


48 grams


brown to gray-brown with black spots, large black spot on belly


record: 18 years


insects and larvae, worms, crustaceans, molluscs


number of eggs: 4

  • Dut: Bonte Strandloper
  • Eng: Dunlin
  • Fren: Bécasseau variable
  • Ger: Alpenstrandläufer
  • Dan: Klire (Almindelig Ryle)
  • Nor: Myrsnipe
  • Frisian: Bünte Gril
  • Ital: Piovanello pancianera
  • Lat: Calidris alpina
Dunlin, Foto Fitis,


With its relatively long slightly curved sensitive bill and good eyesight, the dunlin finds its food by both sight and feel. When it finds a good spot to forage, it pricks the bottom like a sewing machine. Dunlins are the most common sandpiper species in Europe. You can find enormous groups in the wadden and delta regions, swirling through the air in synchronized flight.


Dunlins, Sytske Dijksen,

In May and from August till November, you can see the most dunlins on Texel. They used to be found particularly on the Schorren and around the polder Wassenaar. Nowadays, the majority are seen on the Hors. The dunlins search for food on the Balgzand near Den Helder. When it's high tide, they fly to the Hors on Texel to wait until the water drops. If you are on the ferry boat to Texel during ebb or flood, there is a good chance to see large groups of dunlins flying by.

  • Many subspecies

    There are a total of ten different subspecies of dunlins. Each subspecies looks slightly different and lives in a different region. Four of these subspecies are found in the Netherlands. You see particularly the Calidris alpina alpina. This bird broods in northern Scandinavia and western parts of Russia. It overwinters between northwestern Europe and northern Africa. In addition to the Calidris alpina alpina, you can also see the Calidris alpina arctica (nests in Greenland), the Calidris alpina schinzii (nests in Iceland and in southern Scandinavia) and the Calidris alpina centralis (nests in Central-Siberia) as they migrate via the Netherlands.

  • Distribution and habitat
    Dunlin, Greenland, Jeroen Reneerkens

    You find dunlins  particularly along the coast on sandy and muddy areas. You also find them more inland in freshwater regions, but then in smaller numbers. In the Netherlands, you will see them throughout the year. Large numbers are found particularly in the delta region and around the Wadden Sea. In the entire Wadden Sea, their numbers reach up to more than a million. However, they mostly nest in Scandianvia and rarely in the Netherlands.

  • Synchronized flying

    Dunlins often swirl in large groups through the air. It's wonderful to watch. You often wonder why they don't bump into each other. Birds have a much better sense of hearing and sight than mammals and they have excellent reflexes. That helps! Computer models show that birds in large groups follow three rules: they keep sufficient distance, they adjust the flying direction to birds flying next to them and they fly in the direction of the average position of those birds flying around them. This keeps them flying together in a group. Collisions are not avoided completely but it is certainly rare in large groups.