Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed marine as Heteroscelus incanus
Listed migratory - Bonn as Tringa incana, CAMBA as Tringa incana, JAMBA as Heteroscelus incanus
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans
Other EPBC Act Plans Background Paper to the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2005c) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
Policy Statements and Guidelines Draft Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009aj) [Admin Guideline].
Draft background paper to EPBC Act policy statement 3.21 (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009bc) [Admin Guideline].
Shorebirds - A Vulnerability Assessment for the Great Barrier Reef (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), 2011i) [Admin Guideline].
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
List of Migratory Species (13/07/2000) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000b) [Legislative Instrument] as Tringa incana.
Declaration under section 248 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of Marine Species (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000c) [Legislative Instrument] as Heteroscelus incanus.
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - Update of the List of Migratory Species (12/03/2009) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009q) [Legislative Instrument] as Tringa incana.
State Government
    Documents and Websites
QLD:Shorebirds (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP), 2013bi) [Internet].
Scientific name Tringa incana [831]
Family Scolopacidae:Charadriiformes:Aves:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Gmelin, 1789)
Infraspecies author  
Other names Heteroscelus incanus [59547]
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Heteroscelus incanus

Common name: Wandering Tattler

Other names: American Ashen Tringine Sandpiper

The Wandering Tattler is a vagrant in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and is uncommon in Australia, although it may sometimes be overlooked (Bamford et al. 2008; Higgins and Davies 1996). There are a few records from around Darwin and as a passage migrant in Torres Strait, and along the east coast, often on offshore or nearshore islands and reefs, south as far as Moruya. The Wandering Tattler is also recorded on Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands. The distribution and status of this species in Asia and Australia is poorly known, partly because of confusion with the Grey-tailed Tattler (Bamford et al. 2008; Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Wandering Tattler breeds in Siberia, Alaska and north-west Canada. Breeding areas occur on south slopes of Anadyr Range and Chukotsky Peninsula in Russia; in west central and south-coastal Alaska, roughly bounded by the Yukon River; and in central and south Yukon Territory, and north-west British Colombia, west of the Cassiar Mountains.

The non-breeding range is around the Pacific rim, along the coasts of North, Central and South America, from south California, south to Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands. There is a single record from Punta Salinas, Peru. Wandering Tattlers are widespread throughout the tropical Pacific, from Hawaii, south to Polynesia, the Kermadec Islands and New Zealand, and to east Australia, New Guinea and East Micronesia. There are no published records from West Micronesia or the Philippines. Vagrants have been recorded in Japan and Taiwan, and apparently recorded on passage in Korea (Higgins & Davies 1996). The Wandering Tattler is a regular visitor in small numbers to New Zealand. Its status worldwide is very poorly known and the global population is less than 25 000 birds (del Hoyo et al. 1996), possibly as few as 5000 (Rose & Scott 1997). This species is not globally threatened (del Hoyo et al. 1996) nor threatened in Australia.

The estimated global extent of occurrence is 100 000–1 000 000 km² (Birdlife International 2008b).

The Wandering Tattler is generally found on rocky coasts with reefs and platforms, points, spits, piers, offshore islands and shingle beaches or beds. It is occasionally seen on coral reefs or beaches, and tends to avoid mudflats (Higgins & Davies 1996). Foraging habitat is among rocks or shingle, or in shallow pools at edges of reefs or beaches, mainly along the tideline. Wandering Tattlers have been recorded roosting or perching on top of boulders surrounded by or close to water (Higgins & Davies 1996).

The Wandering Tattler does not breed in Australia. This species breeds in the extreme north-east of Siberia and from southern Alaska east to north-west British Columbia. It is present in the breeding range from late May to August, with eggs laid in June. Breeding is limited to the alpine zone, often along fast-flowing mountain streams. The nest is a simple depression in gravel or a compact structure of twigs and roots. Usually four eggs are laid; the incubation period is 23–25 days (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Wandering Tattlers feed on Polychaete worms, molluscs and crustaceans (including crabs). Outside Australia, they are also recorded eating insects and fish (Higgins & Davies 1996). Wandering Tattlers feed singly or in small groups. Feeding habitat is mainly on rocky coasts, reefs, and, less often, on beaches and mudflats (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Wandering Tattlers migrate southwards from breeding grounds in Siberia, Alaska and north-west Canada for the boreal winter. They cross the Pacific Ocean to Pacific islands, north-east Australia and New Zealand. They also move down the Pacific coast of America. Wandering Tattlers move through Asia and increasingly arrive in Pacific islands from August to October, often via Korea but also via Japan and Taiwan. Adults first arrive at Hawaiian Islands in August. They move through Samoa in August to September, arrive in Fiji in late August, and arrive later at some other islands. Wandering Tattlers are regular visitor to Papua New Guinea where, in Port Moresby district, they are an uncommon passage migrant from August to October.

The Australian distribution of the Wandering Tattler suggests arrival on the north-east coast directly from the Pacific, but also movement through the Torres Strait, suggesting some may come via New Guinea. They apparently arrive in Australia from September onwards and rarely move as far west as the Northern Territory. In New Zealand, they are recorded from September. Some may not move far once in non-breeding areas. Most Australian records are from Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, in January to April. Reliable records suggest birds begin leaving Australia in April-May. They pass through the Port Moresby district, Papua New Guinea, in March-June and are not usually recorded in Papua New Guinea after early May. In the Pacific, they leave Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Gilbert and Ellice Islands and Hawaiian Islands in April or May. In Asia, they pass through Korea in May and are recorded from Kurile Island in May and June. They are thought to be at the breeding grounds from late May. First-year birds regularly spend the breeding months in non-breeding areas, and a few remain in Australia over winter; they are also recorded wintering in New Zealand (Higgins & Davies 1996).

Higgins and Davies (1996) recommend protecting suitable habitat for this species, which differs from that of most other waders in Australia.

Governments and conservation groups have undertaken a wide range of activities relating to migratory shorebird conservation (AGDEH 2005c) both in Australia and in cooperation with other countries associated with the East Asian-Australasian Flyway.

The Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (AGDEH 2006f) outlines national activities to support flyway shorebird conservation initiatives and provides a strategic framework to ensure these activities and future research and management actions are integrated and remain focused on the long-term survival of migratory shorebird populations and their habitats.

From 1996–97 to 2007, the Australian Government has invested approximately $5 000 000 of Natural Heritage Trust (NHT) funding in projects contributing to migratory shorebird conservation (DEWHA 2007e). This funding has been distributed across a range of important projects, including the implementation of a nationally coordinated monitoring programme that will produce robust, long-term population data able to support the conservation and effective management of shorebirds and their habitat; migration studies using colour bands and leg flags; and development of a shorebird conservation toolkit to assist users to develop and implement shorebird conservation projects.

Birds Australia is currently co-ordinating the Shorebirds 2020 project, which aims to monitor shorebird populations at important sites throughout Australia; and Birdlife International is identifying sites and regions which are important to various species of birds, including shorebirds, and the processes that are affecting them. The aim is to inform decisions on the management of shorebird habitat. It may be possible to rehabilitate some degraded wetlands or to create artificial wader feeding or roosting sites to replace those destroyed by development, such as by creating artificial sandflats and sand islands from dredge spoil and by building breakwaters (Dening 2005; Harding et al. 1999; Straw 1992a, 1999).

Australia has played an important role in building international cooperation to conserve migratory birds. In addition to being party to international agreements on migratory species, Australia is also a member of the Partnership for the Conservation of Migratory Waterbirds and the Sustainable Use of their Habitats in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (Flyway Partnership), which was launched in Bogor, Indonesia on 6 November 2006. Prior to this agreement, Australia was party to the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy and the Action Plan for the Conservation of Migratory Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway and the East Asian-Australasian Shorebird Site Network (DEWHA 2007e).

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway Site Network, which is part of the broader Flyway Partnership, promotes the identification and protection of key sites for migratory shorebirds. Australia has 17 sites in the network:

  • Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory (1 375 940 ha)
  • Parry Lagoons, Western Australia (36 111 ha)
  • Thomsons Lake, Western Australia (213 ha)
  • Moreton Bay, Queensland (113 314 ha)
  • Hunter Estuary, NSW (2916 ha)
  • Corner Inlet, Victoria (51 500 ha)
  • The Coorong, Lake Alexandrina & Lake Albert, South Australia (140 500 ha)
  • Orielton Lagoon, Tasmania (2920 ha)
  • Logan Lagoon, Tasmania (2320 ha)
  • Western Port, Victoria (59 297 ha)
  • Port Phillip Bay (Western Shoreline) and Bellarine Peninsula, Victoria (16 540 ha)
  • Shallow Inlet Marine and Coastal Park, Victoria
  • Discovery Bay Coastal Park, Victoria
  • Bowling Green Bay, Queensland
  • Shoalwater Bay, Queensland
  • Great Sandy Strait, Queensland
  • Currawinya National Park, Queensland.

  • The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

    Threat Class Threatening Species References
    Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Direct exploitation by humans including hunting Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].
    Residential and Commercial Development:Residential and Commercial Development:Habitat modification (clearance and degradation) due to urban development Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds (Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH), 2006f) [Wildlife Conservation Plan].

    Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH) (2005c). Background Paper to the Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment and Heritage. Available from:

    Australian Government Department of the Environment and Heritage (AGDEH) (2006f). Wildlife Conservation Plan for Migratory Shorebirds. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment and Heritage. Available from:

    Bamford M., D. Watkins, W. Bancroft, G. Tischler & J. Wahl (2008). Migratory Shorebirds of the East Asian - Australasian Flyway: Population estimates and internationally important sites. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Wetlands International-Oceania. Available from:

    Barter, M.A. (2002). Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea: Importance, Threats and Conservation Status. Wetlands International Global Series No. 8, International Wader Studies 12. Canberra, ACT: Wetlands International.

    Barter, M.A. (2005c). Yellow Sea-driven priorities for Australian shorebird researchers. In: Straw, P., ed. Status and Conservation of Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Proceedings of the Australasian Shorebirds Conference 13-15 December 2003, Canberra, Australia. Sydney, NSW: Wetlands International Global Series 18, International Wader Studies 17.

    Barter, M.A., D. Tonkinson, J.Z. Lu, S.Y. Zhu, Y. Kong, T.H. Wang, Z.W. Li & X.M. Meng (1998). Shorebird numbers in the Huang He (Yellow River) Delta during the 1997 northward migration. Stilt. 33:15-26.

    BirdLife International (2008b). Wandering tattler - species factsheet. [Online]. BirdLife International. Available from:

    Davidson, N. & P. Rothwell (1993). Disturbance to waterfowl on estuaries. Wader Study Group Bulletin. 68.

    del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott & J. Sargatal, eds. (1996). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3, Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

    Dening, J. (2005). Roost management in south-East Queensland: building partnerships to replace lost habitat. In: Straw, P., ed. Status and Conservation of Shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. Proceedings of the Australasian Shorebirds Conference 13-15 December 2003. Page(s) 94-96. Sydney, NSW. Wetlands International Global Series 18, International Wader Studies 17.

    Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2007e). Migratory Waterbirds Information Page, Departmental Website. [Online]. Available from:

    Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2009aj). Draft Significant impact guidelines for 36 migratory shorebirds Draft EPBC Act Policy Statement 3.21. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth of Australia. Available from:

    Garnett, S.T. & G.M. Crowley (2000). The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Environment Australia and Birds Australia. Available from:

    Ge, Z.-M., T-H. Wang, X. Zhou, K.-Y. Wang & W.-Y. Shi (2007). Changes in the spatial distribution of migratory shorebirds along the Shanghai shoreline, China, between 1984 and 2004. Emu. 107:19-27.

    Harding, J., S. Harding & P. Driscoll (1999). Empire Point Roost: a purpose built roost site for waders. Stilt. 34:46-50.

    Harding, S.B., J.R. Wilson & D.W. Geering (2007). Threats to shorebirds and conservation actions. In: Geering, A., L. Agnew & S. Harding, eds. Shorebirds of Australia. Page(s) 197-213. Melbourne, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing.

    Higgins, P.J. & S.J.J.F. Davies, eds (1996). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Volume Three - Snipe to Pigeons. Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

    Melville, D.S. (1997). Threats to waders along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. In: Straw, P., ed. Shorebird conservation in the Asia-Pacific region. Page(s) 15-34. Melbourne, Victoria: Birds Australia.

    Ming, M., L. Jianjian, T. Chengjia, S. Pingyue & H. Wei (1998). The contribution of shorebirds to the catches of hunters in the Shanghai area, China, during 1997-1998. Stilt. 33:32-36.

    Rose, P.M. & D.A. Scott (1997). Waterfowl population estimates, 2nd edition. Wetlands International Publication No. 44. Wageningen, The Netherlands: Wetlands International.

    Round, P.D. (2006). Shorebirds in the Inner Gulf of Thailand. Stilt. 50:96-102.

    Straw, P. (1992a). Relocation of Shorebirds. A Feasibility Study and Management Options. Sydney, NSW: Unpublished report by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union for the Federal Airports Corporation.

    Straw, P. (1999). Habitat remediation - a last resort?. Stilt. 35:66.

    Wei, D.L.Z., Y.C. Aik, L.K. Chye, K. Kumar, L.A. Tiah, Y. Chong & C.W. Mun (2006). Shorebird survey of the Malaysian coast November 2004-April 2005. Stilt. 49:7-18.

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    This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

    Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Tringa incana in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:41:43 +1000.