Grey-tailed Tattlers in Hong Kong

Grey-tailed Tattler (Tringa brevipes)

The grey-tailed tattler, also known as Polynesian tattler, is a species of shorebird that breeds in Siberia and migrates south along the coast to anywhere from south-eastern China to Austrailia and even New Zealand. Four or five came by in a group along the shore of Deep Bay during my trips on the 1st, 4th, and 6th of August (2020). Unlike their American counterparts, the wandering tattlers, the grey-tailed tattlers prefer open mudflats to rocky shorelines, making the Deep Bay flats a perfect sanctuary for travelers. However, it is still technically breeding season for them, which lasts until late August, so these are either on their way to their breeding grounds rather late, they’ve already bred and are on their way back south, or they failed to attract a mate and are simply vagrants.

The species is listed as nearly threatened due to the substantial decline in the adult population, with only 29,500 mature individuals estimated from 2016, but there may very well be fewer now. The main causes of their decline is of course habitat loss and pollution. These birds are currently being monitored by means of various tagging programs, so perhaps with more information, conservation efforts can be more effective. I haven’t yet seen one with a tag, though I do hope to someday so I can report it.

Concerning their behavior, I don’t really have much to say in terms of interesting observations, though it did seem like these waders were more interested in rest than in eating, unlike their plover counterparts, who were scuttling about and voraciously eating everything they could find on the sandbar. The few tattlers that flew in instead just wanted to relax by the shoreline and even in the water. I hadn’t ever seen a wader just hanging out in the wash!

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