Photo: Tom Middleton/Vireo

Wandering Tattler

Tringa incana

Along rocky shorelines on the west coast, this gray sandpiper clambers actively over the boulders. If an observer approaches too closely, the bird gives a loud "tattling" call and flies away, spooking the other shorebirds on the rocks. The name "Wandering" refers to the wide distribution of this species: in winter it is found along Pacific coastlines from North America to Australia, including innumerable islands in the southwest Pacific. In summer, for a change of pace, it goes to high mountains in Alaska and northwestern Canada.
Conservation status Widely dispersed range makes species difficult to census, but also probably helps to ensure survival.
Family Sandpipers
Habitat Rock coasts, pebbly beaches. Nests near mountain streams above timberline. In migration and winter usually on rocky coastline or similar areas, such as rock jetties or breakwaters. Occasionally feeds on nearby mudflats or sand beaches. In breeding season, found along rocky or gravelly streams in northern mountains.
Along rocky shorelines on the west coast, this gray sandpiper clambers actively over the boulders. If an observer approaches too closely, the bird gives a loud "tattling" call and flies away, spooking the other shorebirds on the rocks. The name "Wandering" refers to the wide distribution of this species: in winter it is found along Pacific coastlines from North America to Australia, including innumerable islands in the southwest Pacific. In summer, for a change of pace, it goes to high mountains in Alaska and northwestern Canada.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, breeding
Feeding Behavior

Forages more actively than other shorebirds of rocky coasts, moving about quickly over rocks, picking items from surface. Also probes among rocks or in mats of algae. On breeding grounds, forages by walking or wading along mountain streams.


Eggs

Usually 4. Olive to green, heavily blotched with brown. Incubation is by both parents, about 23-25 days. The incubating adult may sit motionless on the nest even when approached very closely. Young: Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend the young at first, but after 1-2 weeks usually only one adult is present. Young feed themselves, following parents along edge of stream; young can swim well even when small. Age at first flight not well known.


Young

Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend the young at first, but after 1-2 weeks usually only one adult is present. Young feed themselves, following parents along edge of stream; young can swim well even when small. Age at first flight not well known.

Diet

Includes insects, crustaceans, mollusks. On northern breeding grounds, feeds on insects, including flies, beetles, and caddisflies, also amphipods and small mollusks. During migration and winter, eats a variety of mollusks, marine worms, crabs and other crustaceans, and other invertebrates.


Nesting

Early in breeding season, male displays over nesting habitat with high flight, giving whistled song; flight path is long and straight, may extend well beyond limits of nesting territory. Nest site is on ground among rocks or gravel near mountain stream. Nest is shallow depression; may be unlined, or may have substantial lining of small twigs, rootlets, and dry leaves.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Mostly a long-distance migrant. Some winter along our Pacific Coast, but many go as far as Australia, in series of long flights across Pacific. Small numbers also winter along South American west coast.

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Migration

Mostly a long-distance migrant. Some winter along our Pacific Coast, but many go as far as Australia, in series of long flights across Pacific. Small numbers also winter along South American west coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A series of 3 or 4 clear whistles, given in flight.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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