Wandering Tattler

Heteroscelus incanus / ‘Ulili

The ‘ulili are slate-gray in color with greenish-yellow legs. ‘Ulili are easily recognized because they stand near water and bob their tails up and down. The long black bill is distinctive, and is used to probe in the sand for food. During the winter, they have dark gray feathers on their backs and light gray bellies. As April approaches, these shorebirds begin to molt, shedding their old feathers and replacing them with new ones. The summer or breeding plumage adds striking dark gray feathers that stripe the belly area. With new flight feathers, they begin their migration north.

‘Ulili nest in habitats associated with dwarf shrub upland and montane tundra with adjacent water (ponds and rivers). The birds’ dull coloration camouflages them in these gravel habitats. Tattlers utilize rocky intertidal and estuarine mudflat habitats while wintering on Hawaiin islands.

‘Ulili breed in Alaska and Canada from May through August. These shorebirds are monogamous, mating with only one bird that season. Nests are built with gravel, small pebbles, twigs, and roots, often near mountain streams and rivers. Like most shorebirds, these birds also lay a clutch of four eggs. Parents share incubation duties for 3 weeks until the eggs hatch, and hatchlings are reared by both parents until fledging. The chicks leave the nest shortly after hatching. 

‘Ulili are mostly solitary birds but will sometimes be seen in groups of two to three birds. The birds vocalization in flight is distinguishable - a trill of four notes “ki-ree-ree-ree”. 

Facts About Wandering Tattler

Mollusks and other invertebrates found under rocks or in mud 
Life Span
Information not available
Length: 26-30 cm (10.2-11.8 in); wingspan: 50-55 cm (19.7-21.7 in)