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All I want for Christmas ... is to understand Dunlins.

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What the heck is the deal with Dunlins? According to Cornell, their size (length) range ranges from 7.1 to 8.7 inches. That's about a 30 percent variation! A quick look through similar shorebirds shows that the normal size variation is typically much smaller. I never paid much attention to this because in my normal birding grounds on the east coast of Florida, dunlins are always smaller than sanderlings. But last weekend I made a trip over to the west coast ... and got real confused. In the photo below, notice the gargantuan bird to the right of the two sanderlings. I desperately tried to convince myself it wasn't a dunlin - but couldn't. It just seems too doggone big. Can someone please put me out of my misery?


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You're correct that the back rightmost bird is a Dunlin. However the other two birds are not Sanderlings, they are some sort of peep, possibly Western Sandpiper.

I had never noticed that size variation about Dunlins, but that is interesting. I wonder if the differences in size are related to gender, or disjunct breeding populations, or what?

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