Common Name: Greater Yellowlegs
Scientific Name: Tringa melanoleuca
Description: Adults have long yellow legs and a long, thin, dark bill which has a slight upward curve and is longer than the head. The body is grey-brown on top and white underneath; the neck and breast are streaked with dark brown. The rump is white. The Greater Yellowlegs’ cryptic plumage is mottled brownish-gray and white, with the breeding plumage brighter and more heavily barred. An important field mark of the bird in flight is its white tail, which is barred at the end.
The bill of the Greater Yellowlegs is slender and longer than the diameter of its head, in contrast to the bill of the Lesser Yellowlegs, which is not significantly longer than its head. In breeding plumage, the bill is solid black, whereas in non-breeding plumage it may be lighter gray at the base. The bill may appear slightly upturned.
Distribution: Their breeding habitat is bogs and marshes in the boreal forest region of Canada and Alaska. They migrate to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, the Caribbean, and south to South America. They are very rare vagrants to western Europe.
Habitat: Open marshes, mudflats, streams, ponds; in summer, wooded muskeg, spruce bogs
The Greater Yellowlegs migrates earlier than most other shorebirds, and may be seen across much of the Americas, especially along the coasts. They begin to leave their wintering grounds in North and South America by late February, with peak numbers seen between March and May. They begin arriving on the Alaskan breeding grounds in April. They begin moving south from their breeding grounds in late June moving south across the entire US. Some may arrive at their wintering grounds as early as July, while others are still passing through Costa Rica as late as October. In
Las Vegas, the Greater Yellowlegs are conspicuously absent in the spring but present the rest of the year.
We rarely see Lesser Yellowlegs in Las Vegas but I believe this may be one. The smaller size, shorter straight beak and shorter neck are suggestive of a Lesser Yellowlegs. The smudged breast, the brown coloring and the “cap” are all suggestive of a Juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs.