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Greater Yellowlegs Yellow Legs

Identification and Pictures

(Tringa melanoleuca)Yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs are a slim gray sandpiper, 12 1/2 to 15 inches, with  black, white, and gray checkered back.  As the name implies it has long yellow legs.  They have a white eye ring and the under parts are whitish.  In breeding plumage they are heavily barred below.  The bill is long, and slightly upturned.  The white tail, barred at the end can be readily seen in flight.  Young birds look similar to the adults but are not has heavily marked.

Like other birds in this genus they, bob their body up and down.

The Lesser yellow legs looks similar but are smaller, and have a slim straight bill.

Photos by Keith Lee.  The camera I use is the Canon EOS 40D.


Greater Yellowlegs Sound

Males do a loud, ringing, whistled song.  Their call is a clear, squeaky whew-whew-whew.

Preferred Habitat

Greater Yellowlegs breed in muskeg bogs in Canada, and Alaska.  In summer they can be seen in streams, ponds, and marshes through out the U.S., while they migrate south to the Atlantic, and Pacific coasts of the United States, and to South America.

Breeding and Nesting

In courtship the male performs display flights, gliding, rising, and falling while he does his loud whistled song.  They nest in depression on the ground, lined with twigs, grass, leaves, and lichen.  Females will lay 4 buff, blotched eggs which they incubate for around 23 days.  Soon after hatching the young birds are able to leave the nest.


In breeding season insects and insect larvae are their primary food.  During migration, and winter they feed on fish, and other aquatic insects, and animals, swinging their beaks back and forth in the water to stir up their prey.

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