Greater Yellowlegs

Tringa melanoleuca




Sandpipers, Phalaropes (Scolopacidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Buff blotched with brown and gray.

Number of Eggs:

3 - 4

Incubation Days:


Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

In moss on small hummock usually near water.

Nest Material:

Lined with grasses or leaves.





Greater Yellowlegs: Large sandpiper with mottled brown, gray and white upperparts. Underparts are white with dark streaks and black spots; head and neck are heavily streaked dark brown. Bill is long and slightly upturned. Legs are distinctively long and bright yellow. Long barred tail and white rump. Sexes are similar. Winter adult has gray-brown upperparts with white spots and fringes, gray streaking on breast and flanks. Juvenile similar to winter adult, has buff spots and brown forming a breast band.

Range and Habitat

Greater Yellowlegs: Breeds from south-central Alaska to Newfoundland. Spends winters mainly along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts and across the southern states, along the Gulf coast, and into Mexico and the Caribbean. Breeds on tundra and marshy ground; frequents pools, lakeshores, and tidal mudflats on migration.

Breeding and Nesting

Greater Yellowlegs: These birds breed on tundra and marshy ground and frequent pools, lake-shores, and tidal mudflats on migration. Three to four brown and gray blotched buff eggs are laid in a slight ground depression in a damp open spot. This bird has one brood per season. The eggs are incubated for 23 days by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Greater Yellowlegs: These birds eat small aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small fish, frogs, seeds and berries. They forage in shallow water and mudflats, taking prey from the water column and sometimes snatching insects out of the air. They also feed in water up to their belly or while swimming. They drink by putting their bill in water and tipping their head back.


Greater Yellowlegs: Makes a series of musical, whistled notes "whew-whew-whew."

Similar Species

Greater Yellowlegs: Lesser Yellowlegs has a straight bill and is smaller. Solitary Sandpiper has a shorter bill, is smaller, and has green legs.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The upper front part of a bird.
The area between the uppertail coverts and the back of the bird.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X