Graeme Chapman - natural history photographer - ornithologist

Australian Birds

Wandering Tattler
Tringa incana
(Viewing 4 of 10 photos)

Wandering Tattlers are not your everyday wader - you could even call them antisocial - instead of mixing with all the other waders out in the bays and estuaries, they stick to themselves. Either singly or in small groups they inhabit rocky places, in particular the rock shelves associated with rocky headlands up and down the east coast. Not just any rock shelf either, it has to be one washed daily by the tide and this intertidal zone is where they feed on crabs, worms , molluscs, fish etc. Well known haunts include Caloundra and Point Cartwright in SE Qld, Hastings Point and Flat Rock (Ballina) in NE NSW and Long Reef and Boat Harbour in Sydney, but they are rare near Sydney or further south. Further north in Queensland they occur on the coral strewn beaches of many of the islands in the Great Barrier Reef and into Torres Strait and they also occur sparingly around Darwin.

At Caloundra, I've seen Wandering Tattlers chase others away from a favoured roost/feeding area so they may even set up feeding territories - this would account for their rather solitary existence. Like most other waders, they roost at high tide and then you can often approach them quite closely. A close view is what you'll need to make a positive I.D. - the rocky environment is always a good first step, but the very similar Grey-tailed Tattler does occur there on occasions and they are not easy to tell apart. There are three field marks worth noting but all of them are variable and don't always allow a positive result.

Pics 156218D and 156219D show head profiles. Grey-tailed Tattlers have a longer white "eyebrow" which extends (usually) behind the eye. In most Wandering Tattlers at rest, the wingtips extend beyond the tail whereas in The Grey-tailed they are about equal - so the book says but I don't find this very useful. HANZAB says that the structure of the rear of the tarsus differs - reticulate in Wandering Tattlers (see my pic 156220D) and scutellate (with big scales) in Grey-tailed, something I haven't managed to photograph yet. Even this feature varies a bit, possibly with age.

Photo: 156201

156201 ... Wandering Tattler - Point Cartwright, Queensland.

Photo: 156202

156202 ... Wandering Tattler - Caloundra, Queensland.

Photo: 156203

156203 ... Wandering Tattler

Photo: 156204-D

156204-D ... Wandering Tattler - Lady Elliot Island, Queensland, amongst coral.

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