[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Tringa flavipes | [UK] Lesser Yellowlegs | [FR] Petit Chevalier | [DE] Kleiner Gelbschenkel | [ES] Archibebe patigualdo chico | [IT] Totano zampegialle minore | [NL] Kleine Geelpootruiter

Kleine Geelpootruiter determination

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A mottled gray shorebird with bright yellow legs, the Lesser Yellowlegs is similar in appearance to the Greater Yellowlegs, with some important differences. The Lesser Yellowlegs is about half the size (in weight) of the Greater Yellowlegs, which is a useful distinction when the two are seen together. The bill of the Lesser Yellowlegs is not significantly longer than the diameter of its head, whereas the Greater Yellowlegs' bill is much longer. The bill of the Lesser Yellowlegs does not become paler at the base during the winter; it is solid black year round. Its bill always appears straight, without the slight upturn sometimes seen on the bill of the Greater Yellowlegs. In flight, the Lesser has a dark back, a white rump, and a dark tip on its tail. The Lesser's legs are relatively shorter than those of the Greater, a difference which can be seen in flight. Juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs have finer streaking on their breasts than do juvenile Greater Yellowlegs.

Lesser Yellowlegs breed in open boreal woods in the far north. They often use large clearings or burned areas near ponds, and will nest as far north as the southern tundra. During migration and winter, they occur on coasts, in marshes, on mudflats, and lakeshores. In comparison to Greater Yellowlegs, Lessers are typically found in more protected areas, on smaller ponds. They are less common on extensive mudflats than Greater Yellowlegs. When nesting, they generally use drier, more sheltered sites than their larger counterparts.

The Lesser Yellowlegs breeding range is west from James Bay across northwestern Canada. In Alberta, this includes the northern half or the province but excludes the mountainous areas. It has been found nesting nearby at Cochrane and Stettler. During migration, as is the case with Greater Yellowlegs with which it associates, it can be seen along the shores of almost any waterbody, including slow-moving streams.

The exaggerated legs of the Tringa genus are best explained by the custom of feeding in the water, often wading out beyond the belly depths of less elevated relatives. Among shorebirds, long bills usually accompany long legs for the same reason. The greater yellowlegs is an accomplished fisher, at times preying almost exclusively on small estuarine fishes such as sticklebacks and sculpins. Sometimes groups of feeding yellowlegs will form lines, wading abreast to corner fish in the shallows. Both yellowlegs, particularly the lesser, also eat invertebrates. Adults and larvae of aquatic insects such as water boatmen, diving beetles, dragonfly nymphs, and flies are important in the diet, as are sand fleas and intertidal amphipods. Terrestrial invertebrates such as ants, grasshoppers, snails, spiders and worms are also taken. In spite of the length of the yellowlegs bill, it is rarely used for probing in sand or mud. The greater yellowlegs will swing its bill from side to side in the water; the lesser yellowlegs does not. The exaggerated legs of the Tringa genus are best explained by the custom of feeding in the water, often wading out beyond the belly depths of less elevated relatives. Among shorebirds, long bills usually accompany long legs for the same reason. The greater yellowlegs is an accomplished fisher, at times preying almost exclusively on small estuarine fishes such as sticklebacks and sculpins. Sometimes groups of feeding yellowlegs will form lines, wading abreast to corner fish in the shallows. Both yellowlegs, particularly the lesser, also eat invertebrates. Adults and larvae of aquatic insects such as water boatmen, diving beetles, dragonfly nymphs, and flies are important in the diet, as are sand fleas and intertidal amphipods. Terrestrial invertebrates such as ants, grasshoppers, snails, spiders and worms are also taken. In spite of the length of the yellowlegs bill, it is rarely used for probing in sand or mud. The greater yellowlegs will swing its bill from side to side in the water; the lesser yellowlegs does not.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 4,600,000 kmē. It has a large global population estimated to be 300,000-800,000 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]

Lesser Yellowlegs nest in loose colonies. They first breed at one to two years of age. They form monogamous pair bonds, but typically pair with a different mate each year. The nest is located on the ground in a dry spot, usually near water, but sometimes quite far away. The nest is usually well hidden in a densely vegetated area, next to a mossy hummock, fallen branch, or log. It is usually a shallow depression lined with moss, twigs, leaves, grass, and needles. Both parents share incubation duties, and the 4 eggs hatch in 22-23 days. The young leave the nest soon after hatching and feed themselves. Both parents tend and aggressively defend the young. The female usually leaves about 11 days after the young hatch, while the male stays with the chicks until they can fly, about 23-31 days. Pairs raise only one brood per season.

Migratory. Moves through East Canada, East of breeding range, and (mid-July to mid-September) interior USA between Rocky and ALLEGHENY Mts. Also down Atlantic coast, South of Gulf of St Lawrence. Some may fly direct, or via Bermuda, to Lesser Antilles and North South America; others move South down Atlantic seaboard. Commonly stages at West Amazonian lakes and rivers. Uncommon transient in Central America. Few birds winter on West coast USA, more in South USA, majority in West Indies and North South America, where most abundant in Surinam, and high numbers in Guyana and French Guyana. Fair numbers remain South in Northern summer. In spring, return migration across West Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and North America: in USA, most birds move through interior, fewer up Atlantic coast.