Mongolian: Хар элсэг
French: Becasseau variable
Japanese: ハマシギ (Hama-shigi)
Body length: 17-21 cm
Wing span: 32-36 cm
Breeds on low or high ground, in wet short-grass or tundra habitats. The region’s
commonest small wader on migration (in autumn: ads. In late Jul-Aug. juvs. In
late Aug-Oct) and in winter, then found in a variety of marshy or coastal
habitats, but most numerous on tidal flats or on banks of seaweed on shallow
with different Dunlin plumages will provide yardstick against other species. It
will also help in initially picking out other species as ‘something different’.
Just under Starling-sized wader with variable bill length (see Variation), the
shortest and straightest almost stint-like, the longest and most decurved
approaching Curlew Sandpiper.
- Adult summer: Black belly patch diagnostic;
variable rufous on mantle/scapulars, becoming more obvious through wear; ♂
brighter than ♀, with contrasting pale grey nape (brownish on ♀).
- Adult winter:
Drab and rather featureless plumage is in itself rather distinctive, combining
plain brownish-grey upperparts (fine whitish fringes, esp. on wing-coverts);
rather clear-cut pale grey breast-band contrasting with white belly and finely
streaked or clear white flanks; rather plain head with indistinct short
supercilium; and usually fairly long decurved black bill (but beware long and
- Juvenile: Dark brown above, neatly fringed pale rufous or rich
rufous, usually with white scapular-and mantle –Vs; pattern of underparts
distinctive, with neat breast-band of diffuse streaks and band of rather bold
blackish spots on belly-sides leaving broad, usually unmarked white flank-band;
whole head, nape and upper breast washed ginger, without obvious supercilium:
even at long range, therefore, shows distinctive combination of rather plain
gingery head, spotted belly-sides and white flank-band. Note variability of
belly-side spotting, from often very dense (easily confused with moulting adult
summer) to very rarely totally lacking.
- Variation: Three subspecies occur
within treated region, differing in average bill length and brightness of
rufous on upperparts: arctica (Greenland; winters mainly W Africa)
shortest-billed, least rufous; schinzii (Iceland, W Europe; winters mainly W
Africa) intermediate bill length ans rufousness; and alpina (Arctic; winters W
Europe, Mediterranean) longest-billed, richest rufous. Only extreme individuals
safely identifiable; ♀♀ average longer-billed than ♂♂, so shortest-billed
individuals probably ♂ arctical schinzii, and longest-billed probably ♀ alpina.