Greater YellowlegsTringa melanoleuca

adult, breeding
Rolf Nussbaumer/VIREO
adult in background, Lesser Yellowlegs in foreground
Claude Nadeau/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Claude Nadeau/VIREO
adult, molting to breeding plumage
Greg Lasley/VIREO
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Greater Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs



14" (36 cm). A slender, gray-streaked wader with conspicuous white rump and long yellow legs. Lesser Yellowlegs is similar but smaller, with a shorter, straighter, and more slender bill and a different call.


A series of musical whistled notes: whew-whew-whew.


tututu calls
alarm calls
song & tututu calls


Breeds on tundra and marshy ground; frequents pools, lakeshores, and tidal mudflats on migration.


Breeds from south-central Alaska eastward across central Canada to Maritime Provinces and Newfoundland. Winters mainly along coasts from Washington State and Virginia southward, and along Gulf Coast.


The larger of the two yellowlegs is a noisy and conspicuous bird. It is also more wary than its smaller relative and flushes at a greater distance. It often runs about wildly in shallow water or wades up to its belly and occasionally even swims. With its long legs, it easily obtains food in pools. The bill, slightly upturned, is used to skim small animals from the surface of the water as the bird swings it from side to side. This behavior, seldom seen in the Lesser Yellowlegs, makes a Greater Yellowlegs recognizable at a long distance.


4 tawny eggs, heavily marked with brown, in a slight depression on the ground in a damp open spot.

Similar Species

adult male

Black-necked Stilt

13-16" (33-41 cm). A slender, long-legged shorebird. Black above, white below; head patterned in black and white; neck long; bill long and thin; legs very long, red, and slender.

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American Avocet

16-20" (41-51 cm). A large, long-legged shorebird with a slender, upturned bill. Upperparts and wings patterned in black and white; underparts white.


15" (38 cm). A large shorebird, gray-brown, with a long straight bill. Best identified in flight by its flashy black and white wing pattern.

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Wandering Tattler

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adult male, breeding

Spotted Redshank

12" (30.5 cm). A slim, yellowlegslike shorebird; bill long and slender with a droop at the very tip, lower mandible red; legs orange or orange-red legs.

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Lesser Yellowlegs

10 1/2" (27 cm). A slender, gray-streaked wader with conspicuous white rump and long yellow legs.

adult, breeding

Common Greenshank

12" (30.5 cm). Similar to Greater Yellowlegs, except legs greenish; lower back and rump white, tail barred with gray; bill has distinct upward sweep.

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Terek Sandpiper

10" (25.5 cm). A medium-size shorebird with a long, upturned, pale-based, dark bill; short orange-yellow legs; upperparts gray- brown, contrasting with black scapular lines.


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