[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Tringa melanoleuca | [UK] Greater Yellowlegs | [FR] Grand chevalier à pattes jaunes | [DE] Grosser Gelbschenkel | [ES] Archibebe patigualdo grande | [IT] Totano zampegialle maggiore | [NL] Grote Geelpootruiter

Grote Geelpootruiter determination

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The Greater Yellowlegs is a fairly large, grey and white wading bird, with long legs and a long, substantial bill that curves a bit upward. The upper parts are various shades of grey with white flecks. The head, neck, and upper chest of non-breeders are light grey, contrasting with the clean white that extends from the belly to underneath the tail. Breeding birds are more heavily and darkly marked. There is little difference between the sexes. The Greater Yellowlegs grows to 14 inches and weighs 6 ounces, with a wingspan of 28 inches. The differences between the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are subtle but discernable and inspire many bird watchers to learn shorebird identification. By comparison, the nonbreeding Lesser Yellowlegs is lighter grey overall, with a smaller, straighter bill.

During the breeding cycle, the Greater Yellowlegs inhabits productive wetlands in boreal forest interiors. The birds use wet agricultural lands, standing water in grassy fields, beaches, and mudflats during migration and winter

The Greater Yellowlegs breeds throughout a band in central Canada, from Newfoundland and eastern Nova Scotia to eastern British Columbia. The breeding range also extends into Alaska, along the southern Pacific coast. Though it has not been confirmed, it is believed to extend past these areas, farther into the Northwest Territories and south into Oregon.
This species winters along the ocean coasts of North America, from New York south along to the Gulf of Mexico and from California south to Central America.
Vagrant individuals of this species have been observed in Europe, with sightings recorded in Belgium, Denmark, France, Norway and Spain. Rare observations of the species have been reported from Russia, Japan, Micronesia and once in South Africa.

The Greater Yellowlegs often pursues its prey energetically with high steps and quick lunges through shallow water. Rarely probing, this shorebird prefers to pick items from surfaces, snatch insects from the air, or sweep its bill back and forth through the water, apparently feeling for its prey. The Greater Yellow Legs is known to consume dragonflies, flies, small fish, crustaceans, and snails.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 4,100,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 100,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Greater Yellowlegs pairs appear to bond shortly after arriving in the boreal wetlands; they defend widely spaced territories from other shorebirds with flight displays, calls, and aggressive chasing. The nest, often located at the base of an evergreen tree, is a simple scrape or depression thinly lined with dead leaves and pine needles. The female lays 3 to 5 grey or olive eggs, marked with brown and darker grey. After about 23 days, the chicks hatch and are precocial: they soon walk, feed, and vocalize on their own, but appear to require brooding to maintain their body temperature. After 35 to 40 days under the care of both parents, the young fledge.

Migratory. Latitudinally wide winter range appears to be expanding northwards¾now regular in small numbers on Long Island (New York), but occurs mainly from southern USA, through West Indies and Central America to Tierra del Fuego. Autumn passage prolonged, beginning mid-July and lasting into first half November. One of earliest returning waders to USA in spring: through Gulf States from mid-March, north at least to New York by April, and much of breeding grounds reoccupied in final third of April.