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Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser yellowlegs in breeding plumage
© Bob Gress


Common Name: Lesser Yellowlegs

Scientific Name: Tringa flavipes

9 1/4- 10 inches

23 1/2 - 25 1/2 inches


Fall migrant.
Note slim, straight, mostly dark bill and bright yellow legs.

Description: Lesser Yellowlegs are robin-sized with a relatively long, dark bill, slightly grayer at the base, a white eye ring and long, yellow legs. In breeding plumage, they show heavy, black markings on their back, breast and sides. Black markings are replaced by an overall gray in nonbreeding plumage. In flight, both species of yellowlegs show a distinctive dark body which contrasts with a square white rump and pale tail.

Similar Species: They are distinguishable from Greater Yellowlegs by a smaller body and thin, straight bill about the length of the head. They tend to feed in larger flocks in more sheltered areas than Greater Yellowlegs. Listen for the two-note call versus the three or four notes of the Greater Yellowlegs. Willets are larger, have a stockier appearance and blue legs. Solitary Sandpipers’ legs are usually greenish. Stilt Sandpipers also have greenish legs, a slightly drooping bill and spend more time probing in a single spot.

Comments: Lesser Yellowlegs tend to feed by walking rapidly, seldom running, picking at the water surface. They breed in loose colonies on the tundra and taiga throughout northern North America. Nonbreeding season is spent in coastal areas of southern North America and throughout Central and South America. They are seen in flocks during migration throughout the Great Plains.