Greater Yellowlegs

Tringa melanoleuca
Range Map

The Greater Yellowlegs breeds in Southern Alaska and the middle latitudes of Canada, in wetlands (bogs, lakes, or ponds) with nearby trees for perching. They spend winter months along the east and west coasts of North America, and well inland in the southern USA, most of Mexico, Central America and the entire continent of South America.

At a distance and without a reliable size comparison, differentiating the Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs is a tricky proposition. While the general appearance of each bird is similar, the Lesser Yellowlegs is smaller and the bill length is shorter, relative to the head. Their vocalizations are nearly the same, though some have described the calls of the Greater Yellowlegs is harsher, and louder and clearer, than the Lesser Yellowlegs.

I missed meeting Greater Yellowlegs on their breeding grounds during my 2005 Alaska expedition, though I did run into Lesser Yellowlegs on the trip. Lesser Yellowlegs breed further north than the Greater Yellowlegs. California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas have provided me with photo opportunities with Greater Yellowlegs on their winter grounds and in migration.

Modern science regards the Greater Yellowlegs as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

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