Wandering Tattler

‘Ūlili / Heteroscelus incanus
Wandering tattler
  • Found on Kaua'i in stages
    • Adults from July to August
    • Juveniles from September to November
  • The Hawaiian name is inspired by the cry of the bird.
  • ‘Ūlili are slate-gray in color with greenish-yellow legs. ‘Ūlili 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.
  • ‘Ūlili breed in Alaska and Canada from May through August 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. 
  • 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.
  • They 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.
  • While in the Hawaiian Islands in winter, tattlers occur in rocky intertidal habitats, estuarine mudflats, coastal areas on coral reefs, and the basalt platforms of most atolls and islands. They also make use of soft substrates, especially river mouth areas and littoral margins of lagoons. 

Facts About Wandering Tattler

Diet: Forages for small marine invertebrates, insects and fish on sandy or rocky substrates usually within the intertidal zones. 

Length: 44-47 cm (17-18 in), 80-102 cm including tail streamers; wingspan: 104 cm (41 in)

Average life span: 16 years.