The Grey-tailed Tattler can be seen in tidal flats in the spring and autumn. It is sometimes seen at the edge of watery paddy fields or rivers. Its legs are yellow and short for a wader. Its call of “Pyuiii, pyuiii” is clear and distinct, particularly in the migration season, when its voice also pierces the night sky.
Play birds singing
Waders breed in Arctic tundra areas such as northern Russia and when they finish breeding in July some of them start to fly south right away. More than 50 such species have been recorded in Japan; however, few of them are summer birds that breed in Japan like Latham’s Snipe. Many of them are “passage migrants” that fly north in spring and south in autumn. Leaving Japan as it starts to get cold a large number fly to the Southern Hemisphere to winter there.
The Grey-tailed Tattler in particular is one of the commonest passage migrants seen throughout Japan. When people hear their cool, refreshing voice at the end of a long, hot summer it tells them that the season is changing to autumn. Some Grey-tailed Tattlers also fly to the southern tip of Australia to spend the winter.
The northerly migration of waders is from April to May when the songs of small birds become more cheerful, and the southerly migration starts when the birds stop singing and continues until October. The best time to go and observe them is during low tide when they are feeding on small creatures in tidal flats and many can be seen at the water’s edge. Not only are tidal flats a place where waders can fuel up for their long-distance migration, they are also essential to the marine environment.
The oxygen on the muddy surface at low tide is diffused into the sea at high tide. Did you know that the function of this sea purification system is enhanced by animal life? Small creatures live in holes they dig in tidal flats and waders go around eating the creatures they find in those holes. As they do this, the surface area expands and more oxygen is diffused into the sea when the tide comes in.
Eating a crab. Some waders change to colorful plumage in spring but the Grey-tailed Tattler makes only a minor change in that the striped pattern on its chest and belly becomes more prominent.
Feeding at a tidal flat. When they dig in the sand as they hunt at low tide, you see just how many small creatures there are living in a tidal flat. This activity of life including birds also contributes to the purification of seawater.