Archived 2014 discussion: Grey-tailed Tattler (Heteroscelus brevipes): uplist to Near Threatened?

This discussion was first published as part of the 2013 Red List update, but remains open for comment to enable reassessment in 2014.

Link to BirdLife species factsheet for Grey-tailed Tattler

Grey-tailed Tattler Heteroscelus brevipes is currently listed as Least Concern because it was not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under any of the IUCN Red List criteria. Although Wetlands International previously considered the population trend to be unknown, it was suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

100% of the global population of this species is found in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF); breeding in central and east Siberia and wintering in Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea and Australia. The population is currently estimated to be 44,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2013). However, recent evidence suggests that it declined between 1987-2011 (Wetlands International 2013), and it is currently listed as Near Threatened on the Action Plan for Australian Birds (2010), due to an estimated overall decline of 20-29% in Australia over the last three generations (25 years), despite some variability in rates and trends (Garnett et al. 2011). At one key wintering site, Eighty Mile Beach in Western Australia, surveys in December 2008 found 7,950 birds, a decline of c.46% since surveys in 1999 and 2001 (Garnett et al. 2011, MacKinnon et al. 2012). Numbers migrating through Japan in autumn have declined since 1978, and by 57% between c.1983-c.2007 (Amano et al. 2010). Loss and degradation of wetlands (including pollution, reclamation, urban and industrial expansion), disturbance and hunting form the main threats at stopover sites and on the wintering grounds (Garnett et al. 2011).

If past and ongoing declines in the global population of this species are suspected to approach 30% over three generations (25 years using BirdLife International unpublished data), and similar rates are suspected in the future, it would warrant uplisting to Near Threatened under criterion A2ac+3ac+4ac.

Comments on the population trends and severity of threats to this species throughout its range are welcome.


Amano, T., Szekely, T., Koyama, K., Amano, H. and Sutherland, W. J. (2010) A framework for monitoring the status of populations: an example from wader populations in the East Asian-Australasian flyway. Biological Conservation 143: 2238-2247.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the birds of the world, Vol 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions.

Garnett, S. T., Szabo, J. K. and Dutson, G. (2011) The action plan for Australian Birds. CSIRO Publishing: Australia.

MacKinnon, J., Verkuil, Y. I. & Murray, N. (2012) IUCN situation analysis on East and Southeast Asian intertidal habitats, with particular reference to the Yellow Sea (including the Bohai Sea). Occasional Paper of the IUCN Species Survival Commission No. 47. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. ii + 70 pp.

Wetlands International (2013). “Waterbird Population Estimates”. Retrieved from on Monday 18 March 2013.

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5 Responses to Archived 2014 discussion: Grey-tailed Tattler (Heteroscelus brevipes): uplist to Near Threatened?

  1. Grey Tattler
    It is surprising that the bird has never been recorded in the mainland of Sumatra (Iqbal et al. In prep). Occasional coastal visitor in Java recorded in small number, preferring the southern coastline to the north (Mackinnon 1988). Only few records in Indonesian Borneo, with largest count of 35 birds at Kutai National Park (Mann 2008). It is conclude the bird is low number winter visitor in Greater Sunda or Western Sunda.
    – MacKinnon, J. 1988. Field Guide to the Birds of Java and Bali. Gadjah Mada University Press, Yogyakarta.
    – Mann, C. 2008. The Birds of Borneo. BOU Checklist No. 23. British Ornithologists’ Union, Peterborough.
    – Iqbal, M., Abdillah, H. Nurza, A. Wahyudi, T. Giyanto & M. Iqbal (in prep). A review of new and noteworthy shorebird records during the period 2001-2011 in Sumatra, Indonesia. Wader Study Group Bulletin 120(2).

  2. Yvonne Verkuil says:

    Grey-tailed Tattler can possibly be considered as NT within EAAF.

    Last month Jesse Conklin and I finalized a shorebird prioritisation analysis as part of WWF-HK’s project to produce a Conservation Plan for EAAF shorebirds. We used the most recent data in EAAF, and adopted the methodology of the IUCN Red List, using criteria originally designed to assess the extinction risk of species at the global scale, but which can be applied to smaller geographical areas. Our conclusion is that 19 EAAF populations qualified for at least Near Threatened status. The Grey-tailed Tattler was one of the species that regionally qualified as NT. The WWF-HK prioritisation report will probably be published later this year. I hope this is useful information as this stage.
    Thanks, Yvonne Verkuil

  3. Andy Symes says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information and comments posted above, our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List would be to treat Grey-tailed Tattler Heteroscelus brevipes as Near Threatened, approaching the threshold for Vulnerable under criterion A2ac+3ac+4ac.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 March, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife and IUCN websites in mid-2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  4. Arne Jensen says:

    Data from Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Cagayanscillo, Palawan in the Philippine portion of the Sulu Sea are as follows:
    A total of 18 counts (0ne in 1991 and 17 from 1999 to 2013) resulted in 17 records involving 502 individuals.. The 15 spring counts were all conducted within the period from 4 April to 21 May except one count on 19 March. Most counts (11) are from 5 May to 11 May. Only three autumn counts were carried out; one on 3 September and two between 24 and 26 October. Most individuals occurred during autumn with a peak count of 237 birds in October 1991. Peak counts during spring migration included 43 birds in March 1991 and 43 in May 2004.
    The average number of counted birds, arranged in 5-year intervals since 1999, shows a declining trend from 21 individuals (1999-2003) to 17 individuals (2004-2008) to just 2 individuals (2009 – 2013). The number of birds observed during autumn dropped from 237 individuals in October 1991, to 65 in September 2000 to just 8 in October 2006. Although the data are limited, they may suggest that the species could be undergoing a decline.

  5. Andy Symes says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there has been no change to our preliminary proposal for the 2014 Red List status of this species.

    The final categorisation will be published later in 2014, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

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