Greater Yellowlegs

Now is a great time to get out and see the beautiful birds that stop here to rest and feed during their long migrations to northern breeding grounds. One of these, the Greater Yellowlegs, is a medium-sized sandpiper with long yellow legs and mottled brown, gray, and white upperparts. Its head and neck are finely streaked and its long, dark, slightly upturned bill is about 1.5 times the length of its head. This bird is nearly identical in appearance to the Lesser Yellowlegs, a smaller bird whose bill is thinner, straighter and shorter.

This wary bird has been called the telltale, tattler and yelper for the high pitched alarm calls it sounds when approached that scatter all nearby birds. It is an active feeder in shallow waters, where it stabs at the water for aquatic invertebrates, runs after small fish or swings its bill from side to side skimming the surface for food.

Because it nests in the boggy, buggy boreal forests of Canada, this shorebird remains poorly-studied. Impacts to its important habitat from logging, mining, oil and gas extraction, and hydroelectric generation present threats it and the many other species that nest in the boreal forests. Additionally, studies show that a warmer climate is shrinking ponds and wetlands here and causing insects to hatch earlier, decreasing this food supply when migrants need it most to feed their young.

Greater Yellowlegs.
Greater Yellowlegs. Photo: David Wornham/Audubon Photography Awards

Bird of the Week is brought to you by Audubon Rockies and Weminuche Audubon Society.

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