dunlin defined in 1930 yeardunlin - Dunlin;
dunlin - Crown rufous streaked with black; mantle chestnut variegated with black; rest of upper parts grey; throat and upper breast greyish white and striped; lower breast black; belly white. The female is the largest, and measures eight inches. The winter plumage is chiefly grey on the upper parts; the under parts white with a greyish band on the lower breast.
The dunlin is by far the most abundant sandpiper on our coasts during the autumnal and vernal migrations; a considerable number of birds remain throughout the winter, and non-breeders or immature birds are to be met with in summer on the sandbanks and mudflats. The dunlin also breeds in this country, on moors and fells, in the wilder portions of England, Wales, and Scotland, and, in smaller numbers, in Ireland. In autumn they often congregate in such large numbers that a cloud of dunlins is on many parts of the coast as familiar a sight as is a cloud of starlings in more inland districts. The well-known and esteemed writer known as A Son of the Marshes ' thus vividly describes the variable appearance of a vast flock of these birds on the wing: In the distance something is coming up... that looks like the smoke from the funnel of a steamer; it waves and streams as smoke will do in a rush of wind. Now the smoke has vanished. Again it shows thick, as at first, and then it breaks up in patches. Presently the dark cloud becomes a light one - a great flash of silver. It consists of dunlins coming up the wind at full speed. We can hear the rush of the thousands of wings, and their soft chatter, some time before they reach us. Now they are here; with a humming roar they pass below us up the creek; shoot up, showing black and white as they turn; dive down into the creek again; pass us, and take a sweep over the snow, where they are invisible, for their white under plumage, caused by the turn, is in the light. Another turn, and the dark cloud is passing over the snow and into the creek. One turn more, and we see the cloud of dunlins drop below us on the slub - a vast host of living silver dots moving rapidly over the dark brown mud and grey ooze. As they throw their wings up, as they flirt up from one spot to another, all busy chattering, and dibbling, now here, now there - for we can see all their actions, so close are they to us - I thought that it was one of the most interesting sights I had been privileged to witness.'
At the end of April the great body of dunlins forsake our coasts, going north to breed; those that remain to breed in the British Islands withdraw to the loneliest moors and fells, the summer haunts of the curlew and golden plover. On this account the dunlins are called ' plovers' pages ' in some districts.
The language of the dunlin differs from that of most of the sandpipers, being hoarse and somewhat grating; but in spring, on the moors, the male has an agreeable trilling love-call, uttered in the air, or as the bird descends to earth with set, motionless wings and expanded tail.
A slight nest is made on the ground among the heather, and four eggs are laid, greenish white, spotted and blotched with reddish brown.
The great difference in the summer and winter plumage of the dunlin caused it to be regarded formerly, by most persons, as two distinct species: in the chestnut-and-black plumage it was the dunlin; in white-and-grey, the purre. Other local names for this species are stint, ox-bird, and sea-snipe.
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