Tringa totanus



An average-sized wader, this bird can be distinguished in the air by the white trailing edges on the wings, the white 'V' shape on its back, and its long, trailing red legs. Its bill is an orange-red colour. The sexes are similar, though plumage is seasonal. During spring, the back is a grey-brown with dark spots, the underparts are pale, the breast, neck and flanks have dense streaking and there's a white eye-ring. The straight bill is tinged with red at the base. The back, neck, breast and head are more consistently grey-brown in the winter, and the flanks are mottled. The bill and legs are duller. Juveniles are browner than the winter adult; the back and wing feathers have pale margins, and the legs and bill-base are a dull yellow.


About 50% of the region's breeding birds make nests on saltmarshes, while others prefer freshwater marshes or damp grasslands. Birds become more coastal in the winter and saltmarshes are popular for feeding.


Can be solitary or form flocks; is a flexible feeder, walking, running, wading and swimming as necessary. During spring, has a loud display flight that sees birds rolling and dipping over breeding territory, gliding to a stop on land, where they lift the wings to reveal white feathers.


When on coastal habitats, diet includes shrimps, small fish, shellfish such as cockles, marine snails, small crabs, ragworms and other marine worms. When inland this bird eats earthworms, cranefly larvae, beetles, flies and spiders.


Female makes a scrape-nest in May in the cover of vegetation; she usually lays 4 eggs which she incubates with the male for 24 days. Hatchlings can feed themselves, and the female often departs prior to the young taking flight at around 25-35 days.


Up to half of the visiting winter population are from Iceland; during winter, numbers in Britain and Ireland may be more than 160 000. Breeding pairs exceed 25 000 in the UK and are up to 5000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

Outside of the breeding season is the best time to view these birds because winter visitors are present; most birds are near the shores at this time, preferring coastal estuaries, grassland and mudflats.


Has a shrill 'tiu-uu' call when alarmed, and a melodic 'tu-udle, tu-udle' when flying during display.
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