WANDERING TATTLER (Tringa incana) – ‘Ulili – Visitor
DESCRIPTION: The Wandering Tattler is a wading bird in the Sandpiper family. It is mainly grey with a white underside and grey breast. The head is grey with a white line starting at the base of the bill and ending above the eyes. Its long black slender bill is well suited for digging prey in the mud or seaweed. The eyes are black. The legs are yellow. In breeding plumage the undersides are finely barred. Sexes are similar. This bird has the habit of bobbing its tail up and down, like some other shorebirds. It swims well, even the chicks, in spite of not having webbed feet. Wantering tattlers are around 11 inches (28 cm) long.
NAME: The name ‘Wandering’ was given to this bird because of the vast ranges it covers. As for ‘Tattler’, it refers to the fact that it has the reputation of alerting other birds of a hunter’s presence. The Latin genus name ‘Tringa’ refers to a bird with a white rump and a bobbing tail in ancient Greece.
HABITAT: In its native range, rocky shorelines and mountain streams. During migration, can be found in mudflats in cities (see photos below).
DIET: Invertebrates – insects, molluscs, crabs and other crustaceans, worms.
NESTING: The nest is a shallow depression high in the mountains near a stream. It is lined with plant material. Four green eggs with brown spots are laid, and they are incubated by both parents.
DISTRIBUTION: This shorebird is breeding in the Arctic (Yukon, Alaska and eastern Siberia), and migrates along the coasts of North and South America. It has been found as far south as Australia. It is a winter visitor to Hawaii.
CONSERVATION: The small population (up to 25,000) appears stable so the species is listed as ‘least concern’.
NOTES: The wandering tattler has scales on its feet, which likely helps it walk rapidly up and down rocky and slippery shores.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Rock Sandpiper, Willet
REFERENCES: Fact sheet from Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources: Wandering Tattler – Hawaii DLNR – Oct. 2005
The videos below (not the best) show the same individuals as above. Their scaled feet help them navigate slippery rocks:
Note that when self-preening, these birds pick water with their bill to clean themselves:
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