American Avocets and Dunlins

Continuing my bird sightings along the wildlife drive at Bombay Hook NWR end of last year, I drove up on two large migrating flocks of shorebirds.  Both lifers!

(photos taken from my car)

_DSC0013-1 112017

Flock of American Avocets in front of the Dunlins (eight Northern Shovelers in the foreground)


I have seen American Avocets before but never got a chance to photograph them.

_DSC0074-1 112017Gulls (foreground) napping with American Avocets

American Avocets have long, upturned bills that they sweep through the shallow water to catch small invertebrates.  They also have blue legs.  Love those blue legs.

_DSC0101-2 112017

American Avocets are in the same family as Stilts.

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Not sure why, but the Avocets took flight.  I didn’t see anything menacing in the sky.  Even the Dunlins had stayed put.

_DSC0116-1 112017American Avocets in flight

_DSC0125-1 112017(photo-bombed by a gull….)


_DSC0142-1 112017(Looks like they’re on a mission….)

The American Avocet’s wingspan is an impressive 28″ (71 cm).

This next photo was taken along a canal at the refuge where I was standing and photographing another bird.  I was very happy to have gotten this opportunity and capture as they quickly flew by!

DSC_7710-1 112017


While photographing the Avocets, I was also working on the Dunlins.

The Dunlin is a medium-sized sandpiper.  There were thousands of them resting and foraging in the shallow waters.

_DSC0152-2 112017


Luckily, a few Dunlins were foraging at the water’s edge early-on for me to get some close-ups.

_DSC0099-1 112017(Size comparison of the American Avocet to the Dunlin)


_DSC0091-2 112017


I moved on but looped the wildlife drive again.  The Avocets were still gone but the Dunlins were there.  Just watching and enjoying the scenery and telling myself I needed to get to my errands(!), the Dunlins quickly took flight and I snapped a few shots.  Again, I didn’t see anything menacing in the sky.

DSC_7577-1 112017Dunlins in flight

Dunlins have a wingspan of 13-14″ (32-36 cm).

DSC_7583-1 112017

Both of these birds are gorgeous in breeding plumage (American Avocets breed in the U.S. mid-west; Dunlins breed along the northern coastlines of Alaska and Canada) which I would love to see and photograph; but for now adding them to my lifer list, I’ll take their winter-look here during their visit!


40 thoughts on “American Avocets and Dunlins

  1. What a beautiful picturing of both birds, Donna. I hope the approaching winter storm will treat them well…so that they may find food. Best wishes for a wonderful 2018!

  2. Great photos Donna! It makes me want to jump in the car and head to Bombay Hook. Are you going to any of the events in the Delmarva Birding Weekend the last weekend in January?

    • Thanks Susan! I love Bombay, it’s best to be there in the morning for the two Pools so sun is at your back. My problem, I could never get there early, lol. On the DBW events, no, I’ll be in SC then.

  3. Always fun to see large flocks like this and it would be nice to know what makes them fly off in a group when it isn’t obvious. The Dunlin is a new bird to me-nice to see.

  4. Not one but two lifers in a one sighting! How thrilling. Avocets are so beautiful. They’re quick to take flight. I haven’t got any in flight. You did an amazing job of photographing them in flight.

  5. I would forget my errands, too, Donna, with such distractions. I have trouble with shorebirds, but Avocets I recognize, and love. You captured their dorsal wing pattern during their flight beatifully. Thank you for taking us back to Bombay Hook NWR.

    • Thank you, Tanja, I almost didn’t get all the errands done, lol. Being mid-West, I’m guessing you get to see Avocets in breeding plumage where they are gorgeous in coloring. Lucky you!

  6. Love your flight shots Donna. Avocets always make a good flock shot. We have the Red-necked variety which normally share their territory with the Black-winged Stilt here. We do not get Dunlins here. Have a wonderful week!

  7. That header shot of the heron is amazing! It also shows clearly why tootlepedal calls herons the grumpy clan. They never look very gruntled. (love that word – opposite of disgruntled!)

    Marvelous shots of the two new lifers. I think I may have seen some dunlins (never a huge mob like yours) here on the coast, but I’m still learning to ID shore birds. They certainly are a challenge!

    • Very gruntled, love it! 🙂 Yea, Great Blue Herons can give that, don’t bother me’ look, lol. The lifers was a plus for that day. (When isn’t a lifer a good day, ha!) I still have to look up some shore birds because the juveniles always throw me a loop. It is fun, though! 🙂

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