Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs Photograph by Mike Baird

Greater Yellowlegs Photograph by Mike Baird














Identifying Them:

Greater Yellowlegs are large shorebirds whom are closely related to Lesser Yellowlegs. Lesser Yellowlegs and Greater Yellowlegs look almost exactly alike except for the fact that Greater Yellowlegs are a lot taller and can be up to 16 inches tall while the Lesser Yellowlegs are usually around 11 inches tall. Another difference between the two birds is that Greater Yellowlegs have more darker yellow legs (almost orange-looking) and Lesser Yellowlegs’ legs are bright yellow. They are part of the Scolopacidae family a.k.a the Sandpiper family. So even though they are called Greater Yellowlegs they are technically a specie of Sandpiper.


These sandpipers winter in South America and parts of the west coast. Greater Yellowlegs breed in marshes, estuaries, swamps and wet bogs with small wooded, coniferous, islands and forests. Greater Yellowlegs are typically found in more open bodies of water than Lesser Yellowlegs and on more large-scale mudflats. They like both fresh and saltwater habitats and will most likely be found their in the winter and during migration.


  • They form small flocks during migration.

Their long legs are made for foraging in deeper bodies of water but you will most likely find them in shallow water along the beach. Greater Yellowlegs forage by swishing their bill from side-to-side, looking for small animals.

Nesting and Nestlings:

They nest on the ground next to the water. They make the nest by scraping a little in vegetated sand, usually under a low shrub. The nest is lined with a little grass, leaves, lichen, and twigs.

Females usually lay about 4 eggs which are a tan-brown color with dark red-brown splotches all over. The eggs are incubated for about 23 days. Male and female take turns incubating the eggs. After the babies hatch they leave the nest soon and are able to find their own food. Their parents stick by them even after they leave and help them along and tend to them until they are able to fly (usually 25 days after hatching) though they may stay up to ten days after they first learn to fly (about 35 days).


Greater Yellowlegs like to eat small aquatic invertebrates but will also eat small frogs, small fish and sometimes seeds and berries that they find near the shore.



About faithelise

I love learning about species of birds and want to be an Ornathologist. Writing about birds is my passion and I love every part of it!
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