Grey-tailed Tattler

Did you know?

The nest of the Grey-tailed Tattler were not discovered by humans until 1959. It was simply a hollow among stones, lined with dried grass. The sitting female was very tame and allowed the observer, a Russian geologist, to approach within arm's length.

An upslurred whistle 'tu-whip'.
Facts and Figures
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Breeding season: 
June to July
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Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Grey-tailed Tattler is a medium-sized wader, with long wings and tail. The bill is rather long and straight. In non-breeding plumage it is grey above and almost white below. There is a white eyebrow. The eyes are dark brown, bill black, short legs and feet bright yellow. In breeding plumage, the entire underparts are conspicuously barred dark brown. Immature birds are similar to adults in non-breeding plumage. This species is also known as the Grey or Grey-rumped Sandpiper or the Ashen Tringine Sandpiper

Similar species: 

The Grey-tailed Tattler is slightly smaller and slimmer than the very similar Wandering Tattler, H. incanus, which has longer wings, which project well beyond the tail tip at rest, and is mainly seen on rocky shores.

Where does it live?

Grey-tailed Tattlers breed in Siberia and on passage are seen along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (the migration route to Australia). When non-breeding they are found in China, Philipines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malay Peninsula, Indonesia, New Guinea, Micronesia, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. They are more commonly seen in the north of Australia.


Grey-tailed Tattlers are usually seen in small flocks on sheltered coasts with reefs and rock platforms or with intertidal mudflats. They are also found in intertidal rocky, coral or stony reefs, platforms and islets that are exposed at high tide, also shores of rock, shingle, gravel and shells and on intertidal mudflats in embayments, estuaries and coastal lagoons, especially those fringed with mangroves.

Seasonal movements: 

Grey-tailed Tattlers are migratory, moving south for the northern winter, mainly along the east coast of Asia but also across the south-western Pacific Ocean. In Australia adults arrive in the north coast from late August to early September with first year birds arriving about four weeks later.

What does it do?

Grey-tailed Tattlers feed by day on polychaete worms, molluscs, crustaceans, insects and, occasionally, fish. They like small crabs. They dart about, bobbing and teetering between runs and locate prey by sight or by probing.


Grey-tailed Tattlers breed in the remote mountains of eastern Siberia, in June and July. The nest is a shallow depression among stones and both parents share the care of the young.

Living with us

There is little impact on breeding habitats as these birds nest in the remotest and wildest mountain country of Siberia. Threats on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (the migration route to Australia) include economic and social pressures such as wetland destruction and change, pollution and hunting.

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