Comparing Grey-Tailed and Wandering Tattler

Some waders, especially in non-breeding plumage, can be difficult to distinguish in the field, e.g. the Grey-Tailed Tattler and the Wandering Tattler. Wandering Tattlers are less common in Australia then Grey-Tailed.

A quote from: T. Lindsey, Australian Museum, Sydney: In sum, I regard discrimination between the two tattlers as one of the most difficult problems among waders on the Australian list. Lindsey has shared his knowledge in this document:

I have collected a few shots showing some of the most frequently quoted characteristics, when it comes to separating Wandering- and Grey-Tailed Tattlers.

  1. The supercilium does not merge above the bill on Wandering Tattlers. (The supercilium is a plumage feature found on the heads of some bird species. It is a stripe which runs from the base of the bird's beak above its eye, finishing somewhere towards the rear of the bird's head [Wikipaedia]) [photo-pair 1]
  2. The supercilium goes significantly beyond the eye on Grey-Tailed Tattlers and is barely visible beyond the eye on Wandering Tattlers. [photo-pair 2]
  3. The Wandering Tattler is slightly the larger of the two and of darker appearance (the two birds in the third photo pair were sitting next to each other (about half a meter apart) and the processing settings for the photos are exactly the same. The bill is supposed to be more robust and darker on the Wandering Tattler
  4. The nasal groove on the bill is significantly longer for the Wandering Tattler (experts say to be about 2/3 of the length of the bill and max. half the bill length for a Grey-Tailed Tattler. This is difficult to see in the field, but helpful when checking the ID using photographs [photo-pair 4]
  5. The call is different, although I must say the only Wandering Tattler I have seen did not call.

The TTG Backlight web tools, which I use for the production of my own website, allow me to compare two photos in a very elegant way by swiping a slider to transition from one shot to another. I have used this new function to show photos from a Grey-Tailed (left photos) and Wandering Tattler (right photo).

At last it must be said, that - having seen just one Wandering Tattler - I am far from being a reference expert :-)!

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