Skip Navigation


Calidris alba / Hunakai
The hunakai is the smallest of the common shorebirds in the Refuge. It has a thin, black bill and black legs. From far away, these birds look white against the green–blue waters by the shore. During the winter, hunakai have pale gray and light brown feathers on their backs. Their dusty brown crown meets with the contrasting stark white cheeks. This snowy coloration extends down their necks to their bellies. Like many kinds of birds around the world, the hunakai puts on its most colorful feathers for the nesting season. If you are lucky enough to see a hunakai that is reddish-brown on its head, breast, and back, you can be sure its nesting season is close.

The nonbreeding range is in temperate and tropical beaches of North and South America. A majority of birds winter in Central and South America. Nesting habitat is in the high-arctic tundra, particularly the Canadian Arctic archipelago, Greenland, and Siberia.

The breeding season for the hunakai is from July through August in the high artic tundra. The male will sing while flying overhead of a potential mate. Once on the ground he will ruffle his feathers with his head back on his shoulders to show off to the female! Once paired with a female, the nest must be made. Nests are constructed in the ground with mosses and lichens to cradle two to four eggs. These eggs have cryptic coloring and are beige or green-brown speckled. The camouflage colors will help protect the eggs from predators. Once these chicks hatch, it is time to eat. Like many shorebirds, the young are precocial and can feed themselves soon after hatching. Moreover, these chicks are able to fly as soon as 17 days after hatching.

Facts About Sanderling

In Alaska, they eat flies, seeds, algae and other insects. Here, they feed on mollusks and other invertebrates. 
Life Span
7 years
Length: 18-20 cm (7.1-7.9 in); wingspan: 35 cm (13.8 in)
Page Photo Credits — Wikipedia Commons
Last Updated: Aug 27, 2013
Return to main navigation