Invitation to identify a couple of Tattlers: follow-up.

To: "birding-aus" <>
Subject: Invitation to identify a couple of Tattlers: follow-up.
From: "Robert Inglis" <>
Date: Sat, 27 May 2006 09:25:19 +1000
Dear, dear Birding-Ausers,

As you all will be well aware, on 27 April 2006 I submitted a posting on the 
topic of identifying
the two Tattler species.

Also, two photos of Tattlers were provided on the following web-pages:
Photo No 1:
Photo No 2:

An invitation was extended to identify the species.

Obviously there was a 'devious' intent in doing this and it would not have 
taken too much brain
power to realize that the photos were deliberately chosen to confuse.
Even so, 14 people had a go at identification.
(It can be a bit frightening but encouraging to become aware that what I write 
on this forum is read
and considered by birders all over the world.)

I have to say here and now that it was not a surprise to the perpetrators off 
this puzzle that only
one participant got it right.

I had intended to get back to you all before this time but a few things have 
militated against that
I have been somewhat preoccupied with a few things:
- I have recently moved into a (long-desired) retirement village (fortunately 
not the dreaded
nursing home) and settling in has had its moments;
- I am also preparing for "a trip of a life-time" involving driving to Alice 
Springs, joining a tour
for 4 weeks roaming the Kimberly region of Western Australia (Black Grasswren 
country included) and
then onto some birding in SW WA (oh, and to visit relations in Perth) but there 
have been a few
'glitches' which have tried my patience and wasted my time;
- the old body (mine, that is) has been telling me lately that it is well-worn 
and it doesn't like
what I do to it.

And....I have been trying to track down an article on a Grey-tailed Tattler 
with a long nasal-groove
(see below).

'Our' ultimate intention is to provide a detailed explanation of the two photos 
along with a
suggested way to accurately and reliably identify the two Tattler species.
Unfortunately, time is short and I won't be able to do the full job before I 
leave on THE TRIP.
So, I have (with the permission of other parties to this tattler-torture) 
decided to tease you all
with a few revelations:

Both birds are Wandering Tattlers.

Bird 1: Wandering Tattler, adult, not quite full breeding plumage.
Reasons: a combination of extent of under-body marking, the markings on 'under' 
parts of under-tail
coverts and not just on side of under-tail coverts, extent and shape of 
supercilium, extent of
markings on flanks, bill more solid than Grey-tailed and less yellow at base of 
lower mandible.
Bird 2:
Wandering Tattler, possibly immature or young adult, in basic plumage.
Reasons: a combination of the supercilium confined to the area in front of the 
eye, overall darker
colour than most grey-tailed Tattlers, darker flanks than Grey-Tailed Tattler, 
bill more solid than
Grey-tailed and less yellow at base of lower mandible.
Note: The wing primaries on this bird were worn to the extent that they did not 
extend beyond the

Both birds were also identified by the flight call.

- The birds were photographed during 22/04/2006 at Point Cartwright, Buddina, 
Sunshine Coast, SE
Queensland (Brisbane UBD Refidex, Sunshine Coast Map 80 K1);
- The photos were taken by Paul Walbridge (hands up who guessed that) in the 
company of myself, Bob
Inglis (I also took some much better photos);
- Paul and I identified the birds as Wandering Tattlers after observing 
physical features, behaviour
and flight call.

The reason we initiated this exercise was that we both felt recent discussions 
on Birding-Aus about
identifying Wandering Tattler were, at least, incomplete or, at most, 
completely misguided. The
accurate and reliable identification of these two species (in particular 
Wandering Tattler) is one
of the more difficult tasks open to shorebird observers and it seems to us that 
many birders are
basing their identifications on unreliable diagnostic features and/or 
'folklore' type information.
(Now, that's a "rocks-on-the-roof" statement if ever I saw one!!
And here is another: "I suspect that some, if not many but not all, of the 
Wandering Tattler
sightings claimed for Australia in the past are probably incorrect".)

A comment on using the nasal-groove length to positively identify Wandering 
"The Stilt" No 2 (the journal of the Australian Wader Studies Group) has, on pages 
36 & 37, an
article by Roger Jaensch about a Tattler trapped at Broome in 1981 which had a 
nasal-groove the
dimensions of which fell within those considered to be found only on Wandering 
After examination, the bird was considered to be almost certainly a Grey-tailed 
Jaensch went on to caution against identifying Wandering Tattlers on the length 
of the nasal-groove

As a detailed explanation of what 'we' consider to be a more accurate and 
reliable way to identify
the two Tattler species would exceed the data limit for postings to this forum 
I will place that
explanation on a web-page linked to the two images mentioned above along with 
more images
illustrating the diagnostic and identification (there is a difference) features 
of the two species.

All of that when I return from the trip.

In the meantime, a suggestion:
When trying to identify wandering Tattlers, do not simply rely on one, or even 
two, of the
'recognised' diagnostic features favoured by many birders: look at the whole 
bird and how it
For example: [1] Using the length of the nasal groove as the sole criterion is 
unreliable; some
respondents said the nasal grooves in the example birds were short while others 
said they were long;
[2] Worn wing primary feathers can give the impression that the tail is longer 
than the folded
[3] Don't assume that a 'darkish' looking Tattler seen on rocky outcrops is a 
Wandering Tattler or
that a Tattler seen on a sandy beach is a Grey-tailed Tattler.


Bob Inglis
Sandstone Point


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