(2161) Erolia alpina alpina.
Tringa alpina Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 149 (1758) (Lapland); Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 279.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. - Breeding plumage. A narrow line next the bill and a faintly indicated supercilium white, streaked with black; upper plumage bright deep rufous, each feather broadly centred black and some of the longer scapulars and innermost secondaries terminally edged with white; hind-neck greyish-white streaked with black ; lower back and rump dark grey-brown, showing little rufous or black; sides of rump and lateral tail-coverts white ; central tail-feathers blackish-brown, the lateral grey with white edges ; wing-coverts grey-brown with darker centres and pale or whitish edges; the greater coverts with broader white edges; primary coverts and primaries blackish, the former narrowly edged whitish, the latter white-shafted, but the lores and tips of the shafts of the second and third primaries brownish; outer secondaries nearly all white with dark centres; sides of head, chin, throat and upper breast white streaked with blackish, often suffused with rufous, especially on the chin and fore-neck; centre of breast and abdomen blackish-brown; flanks, axillaries and under tail-coverts white, the last streaked with black.
Colours of soft parts. Iris hazel or dark brown; bill and legs black.
Measurements. Wing 104 to 120 mm.; tail 46 to 51 mm. ; tarsus about 21 to 26 mm.; culmen 25 to 31 mm.
In Winter. Upper plumage ashy-grey, the feathers of the head with darker brown streaks, the remainder with dark shaft-stripes only ; innermost secondaries darker and browner with narrow whitish or rufescent-white edges; lores, sides of the head, neck and fore-neck fulvescent-grey with dark brown streaks, remainder of lower plumage white.
Young birds have the upper plumage like the adult in breeding plumage but are much less richly rufous and have more white edges to the feathers of the mantle, the fore-neck is dull pale rufous and the underparts are white, more or less spotted with brown.
Nestling. Centre of crown and centre of back deep chestnut surrounded by black; a black line through the eye, becoming chestnut posteriorly; a narrow line on the wings black; a black patch on each side of the europygium and a line across joining the black round the centre of the back, the down ending in little whitish tufts; rest of upper surface rich rufous-buff; below whitish-buff, the chin, throat and breast darker.
Distribution. Europe from Lapland to Eastern Russia but replaced in the South by E. a. schinzii Northern Asia. In India it is common during the Winter in Sind and the North-West, extending as far South as the Deccan and East to Nepal, E. Bengal and Assam, though it is rare East of the United Provinces. All our specimens from India appear to be typical E. a. alpina and not the more tawny-headed schinzii. I cannot separate E. a. pusilla, the supposed Indian form, from the typical bird.
Nidification. The Dunlin is an early breeder, commencing to lay in the first week of May, though in the North eggs may still be found in late June. The nesting-site is usually on wet upland heather lands, or the marshy tops of grass-covered hills and, even when in dry heather, is always near water. The nest is a very neat cup worked out among the roots of the grass or heather, very carefully hidden and neatly lined with dry grass or leaves. The bird sits very close directly incubation actually commences, getting up at one's feet and jumping into the air with a zigzag action before flying off. Sometimes it feigns injury and flutters olong the ground in front of one, attempting to attract attention from the nest. The four eggs vary considerably in colour. In most eggs the ground-colour is some shade of yellowish or buff but in a minority it is pale blue-green to olive. The markings vary from specks and small spots to blotches of deep brown, reddish-brown, purple or chocolate-brown with secondary markings, sometimes obsolete, of grey. One hundred eggs average 34.3 x 24.4 mm.: maxima 38.3 x 25.4 and 35.0 x 25.8 mm.; minima 31.3 X 23.2 and 32.0 x 23.0 mm. Both sexes assist in incubation.
Habits. In Winter the Dunlin abandons the peat-lands and boggy uplands and resorts to the sea-shore, the muddy banks of inland waters and the shores of the larger rivers. It is a very active little bird, occasionally sitting still for a moment with its head tucked close into its shoulders but far more often running hither and thither as it hunts for its food. This consists prin¬cipally of moliusca, snails, slugs, worms, sand-hoppers and all kinds of insects. Occasionally seeds and grain have been found in their stomachs. In the breeding-season it has a pretty, trilling love-song, uttered on the wing, but its ordinary call is a prolonged " wee-e-et" and it is said to have also a soft " purr" in the Winter.