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Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes


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Lesser Yellowlegs
credit: Wwcsig/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Scolopacidae, Sandpipers view all from this family

Description ADULT In summer, has back feathers beautifully patterned with brown, black, and white. Head and neck are heavily streaked brown and underparts are mainly white (Greater's flanks have dark barring). In winter, looks much paler grayish overall. Head, neck, and upperparts are pale gray-brown, feathers on back being marked with pale marginal spots and scallops. Underparts are white. JUVENILE Similar to winter adult, but with more streaking on neck and breast, and buffy marginal spots and scallops on back feathers.

Dimensions Length: 10 1/2" (27 cm)

Habitat Common breeding species in taiga or lightly wooded tundra habitats. Watchful nesting birds sometimes perch on stunted trees. Long-distance migrant, wintering as far south as southern South America. Widespread on migration throughout North America and winters in smaller numbers than Greater on Gulf coast.

Observation Tips Bill length and more controlled feeding habits are pointers allowing separation from Greater.

Range Southwest, Florida, Plains, Eastern Canada, Great Lakes, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Texas, Western Canada, California, Southeast, Northwest, Alaska, Rocky Mountains

Voice Utters a sharp tew or tew-tew in flight. Song is a yodeling tweedle-ee.

Discussion Elegant wading bird with long, orange-yellow legs. Bill is thin, long and straight; it only just exceeds head length, whereas Greater's bill is much longer than head length. Note also that Lesser's bill is always all dark, whereas Greater's is pale-based in juveniles and winter adults. Feeds in a more precise manner than Greater (which runs around wildly) and generally much less wary. In flight, dark upperparts contrast with white rump and pale-barred tail. Sexes are similar.