Wandering Tattler

Heteroscelus incanus
Wandering tattler

The tattler is slate-gray in color with greenish-yellow legs. They are easily recognized because they stand near water and bob their tails up and down. The long black bill is distinctive, nosing 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.

Tattlers 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.  

They 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 many shorebirds, these birds also lay a clutch of four eggs. Both parents will incubate the eggs for 3 weeks until they hatch and are then cared for by both parents until they fledge. The chicks leave the nest shortly after hatching. 

Tatlers are solitary birds, even during breeding season but may occur in groups of two to three birds. If not seen, the birds vocalization in flight is distinguishable - a trill of four notes “ki-ree-ree-ree”. Birds will bob the posterior end frequently. 

Facts About Wandering Tattler

Feed mainly on invertebrates but will also consume small fish when available. 
Life Span
xx years
Length: 26-30 cm (10.2-11.8 in); wingspan: 50-55 cm (19.7-21.7 in)