It is the beginning of the Southern hemisphere's hot and humid season, heralded by migrant visitors such as the wandering tattler, our organism of the month. Although it is categorized as a "visitor", this little bird has found a place in Tahitian mythology. It was once a totem for a village on Tahiti, which is now called Mataiea. It used to be called Vai'uriri because these birds were so abundant on the beaches, especially near the mouths of the rivers. For the inhabitants of this Mataiea, the uriri was a carrier of news, perceptible from a distance by its melodious song "oulililili".
In Tetiaroa atoll, as everywhere else, Tringa incana is often first noticed by a distinctive song that it emits most often when disturbed in its hunt by a presence, human or animal. As a wading bird, it is most often seen along beaches, rivers and lakes. It moves quickly and pecks hard in the sand, in shallow water or in the mud, to catch small fish or invertebrates.
We have the pleasure to observe it in Polynesia, where it winters, from September to May. It flies here as cold descends on its breeding habitat in northeastern Siberia, Alaska, and northwestern Canada. Here it finds warm temperatures and a productive feeding ground (crustaceans, sandworms, small fishes). It should be noted, however, that juvenile wandering tattlers do not necessarily return to the North for the breeding season and can be seen here year-round.
It is medium in size (28 cm), stocky, and has uniformly gray plumage on the upper side and white on the underside. It has a tapered beak to stuff it into the cavities of rocks or corals, small yellow legs and a dark line from the eye to the beak. The eye is surrounded by white. During courtship displays (although they are rarely visible here) their plumage is streaked and dark. It can always be told from other shore birds by its habit of bobbing its tail up and down as it walks.
Tips for observation:
Settle on the beach and stay still. Watch the shore carefully, you will likely spot it feeding along the shore. Or hide in the vegetation and listen carefully to the songs of birds, the tattler’s one would sound like “oulililili”.
There is a Tahitian song about the Uriri:
O Vai uriri nui a tere i aoha
The great Uriri moved with grace.