My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca

The Greater Yellowlegs is a large North American shorebird, similar in appearance to the smaller Lesser Yellowlegs.

Adults have long yellow legs and a long, thin, dark bill which has a slight upward curve and is longer than the head. The body is grey-brown on top and white underneath; the neck and breast are streaked with dark brown. The rump is white. It ranges in length from 29 to 40 cm (11 to 16 in) and in weight from 111 to 250 g (3.9 to 8.8 oz).

Their breeding habitat is bogs and marshes in the boreal forest region of Canada and Alaska. They nest on the ground, usually in well-hidden locations near water. The three to four eggs average 50 mm (2.0 in) in length and 33 mm (1.3 in) in breadth and weigh about 28 g (0.99 oz). The incubation period is 23 days. The young leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching and then leave the vicinity of the nest within two days.

They migrate to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States and south to South America. They are very rare vagrants to western Europe.

These birds forage in shallow water, sometimes using their bills to stir up the water. They mainly eat insects and small fish, as well as crustaceans and marine worms. It often walks in sand or mud and leaves clear tracks; it can be possible to gather information about this species using its tracks.

The call is harsher than that of the Lesser Yellowlegs.

On to my photos:

Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca

Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs in flight

Greater Yellowlegs in flight

Greater Yellowlegs in flight

Greater Yellowlegs in flight

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs

To show the slight difference between the greater and lesser yellowlegs, here are two photos with one of each species. The only real difference that you can see is size, the surest way to tell the two species apart is by their call.

Greater yellowlegs center, lesser yellowlegs to the right

Greater yellowlegs center, lesser yellowlegs to the right

Greater yellowlegs to the rear, lesser yellowlegs in front

Greater yellowlegs to the rear, lesser yellowlegs in front

This is number 142 in my photo life list, only 208 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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11 responses

  1. Enjoyed your post. Thanks for including the comparison shots!

    January 22, 2014 at 10:16 am

    • Thanks, if ever there were two species that looked alike, it is these two. I felt that a comparison shot or two were required.

      January 22, 2014 at 1:09 pm

  2. It seems you’d need the two species always standing next to each other for a better ID.

    January 22, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    • Well, there’s a slight difference in their bills, but you have to be really close to see it. They do have distinctly different calls, which is an easy way to tell them apart.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:48 am

  3. It’s interesting that the two look so much alike. I wonder if they ever crossbreed.

    January 22, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    • That’s a good question. Here’s an interesting fact that I left out, the two species aren’t that closely related, despite the fact that the look identical. The greater yellowlegs’ closest relative is the Greenshank, which together with the Spotted Redshank form a close-knit group. The mysteries of nature, gotta love them.

      January 23, 2014 at 2:53 am

  4. Interesting. The deeper I dig into nature the greater the mysteries, it seems like.

    January 23, 2014 at 6:27 am

  5. While I was at the San Diego Zoo, I saw a fellow hauling an enormous camera/lens/tripod from area to area. Happened to overhear someone ask him about the focal length of his lens, and he replied “600 mm”. Holy cow! I have a whole new respect for you and the Beast, (you had recently mentioned that it is 500mm, right?) This must be a true labor of love. Thanks for all your hard work.

    January 24, 2014 at 1:12 am

    • Thank you. I get a good upper body work out every time I carry that thing. 😉

      January 24, 2014 at 8:20 am

  6. Great post! Love those in flight shots.

    January 29, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    • Thank you, that was one of my better days.

      January 30, 2014 at 2:19 am