Long-legged Shorebirds–Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs

The Lesser Yellowleg’s bill is a little longer than the head. The Greater Yellowleg’s bill is much longer.

August means shorebird migration, and two weeks ago I found a few shorebirds at Montour Preserve.  Birds with long yellow legs are called Yellowlegs, but it takes some practice to differentiate between the Lesser and the Greater.  If they are side by side, as in the above picture, it’s no problem.  The Greater looks to be twice the size of the Lesser and sports a much longer, heftier bill.  In the picture below taken last year, the added marks make it very obvious.  The bill of the Greater is about 1.5 times the length of the head, while the bill of the Lesser is about the same length.

Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs

The instructive lines were added by Allen Schweinsburg.  Great idea, Allen!

Greater Yellowlegs

Foraging among the rocks

Greater Yellowlegs

Looking in the shallow water for small fish, frogs, and invertebrates.  Found a snail!

Greater Yellowlegs

White rump and long barred tail easily seen in flight

Greater Yellowlegs

Beautiful feather patterns under the wing

Greater Yellowlegs

Yuu yuu yuu yuu!!!

Greater Yellowlegs

Taking a rest on one leg

Greater Yellowlegs

Stirring the water

Lauren Shaffer

Lauren Shaffer wrote 146 posts

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  • judysbirds

    Thanks for the lesson. I’m heading to the shore this weekend, and will be using your tips to practice distinguishing these two lovely birds.

  • blackburnian7

    Glad it was helpful! We need all the help we can get when it comes to figuring out shorebirds!

  • Lucy

    Excellent pictures and informationLaurie.

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