Skip to Content

Lesser Yellowlegs

Known for their long legs and medium body, these birds are common across South America, but travel to northern parts of North America to breed.

Aptly named for its long, yellow legs, the Lesser Yellowlegs is also well known for its frequent and piercing calls. Lesser Yellowlegs are often seen in small flocks with other shorebirds during migration, and can be seen across much of North America in spring and fall.

As with many migrant birds, stopovers are important for feeding, because migration requires so much energy. One study of Lesser Yellowlegs that took place during fall migration found that the birds spent over 80 percent of their time foraging.


Description of the Lesser Yellowlegs


The Lesser Yellowlegs is a lanky shorebird with long yellow legs, a straight, dark bill that is about twice as long as the head, and brownish-gray upperparts heavily mottled with white.  Length: 10 in.  Wingspan: 24 in.

Lesser Yellowlegs


Sexes similar.

Seasonal change in appearance

Nonbreeding birds are slightly paler.


Immatures resemble adults.


Lesser Yellowlegs inhabit marshes and shorelines, ponds, and boreal woods.

Lesser Yellowlegs


Lesser Yellowlegs primarily eat insects, crustaceans, and small fish.


Lesser Yellowlegs use their long legs to forage in shallow water.


Lesser Yellowlegs breed in Alaska and central Canada, and winter across the Pacific, Gulf, and Atlantic Coasts, as well as points south. The population is not well measured.


More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Lesser Yellowlegs.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird’s wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species’ identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History


Fun Facts

Recently burned northern forests provide good breeding habitat for Lesser Yellowlegs.

Lesser Yellowlegs tend to be more gregarious than Greater Yellowlegs, and are often found on quite small bodies of water.

Lesser Yellowlegs are particularly loud and vigorous when defending their nest.


The typical call is a 1 or 2-note, strident, “tu-tu-tu-tu.”


Similar Species

Greater Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs have a bill that is more than twice as long as the head, and calls include 3 or 4 notes rather than 1 or 2.

Solitary Sandpiper
The Solitary Sandpiper has stronger eye ring, shorter, more olive-green colored legs.


The Lesser Yellowlegs’ nest is a shallow depression filled with leaves and grasses and placed in the open.

Number: Usually lay 4 eggs.
Color: Buff with darker markings.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 23 days and leave the nest soon after hatching, but cannot fly for about 3 weeks.


Bent Life History of the Lesser Yellowlegs

Published by the Smithsonian Institution between the 1920s and the 1950s, the Bent life history series of monographs provide an often colorful description of the birds of North America. Arthur Cleveland Bent was the lead author for the series. The Bent series is a great resource and often includes quotes from early American Ornithologists, including Audubon, Townsend, Wilson, Sutton and many others.

Bent Life History for the Lesser Yellowlegs – the common name and sub-species reflect the nomenclature in use at the time the description was written.



The lesser or “summer” yellow-legs is a smaller edition of the greater or “winter” yellow-legs, and both are quite similar in behavior. The lesser is more abundant and less shy, hence rather better known. The seasonal names, applied to them by gunners, have been well chosen, as the lesser comes to us in summer and the greater lingers with us almost into winter. Both have the exasperating telltale habit of arousing the neighborhood by their loud cries of alarm.

Spring: The lesser yellow-legs is a rare bird in New England in the spring. The main flight from South America passes through the West Indies to the Southern States and then northward through the Mississippi Valley to the breeding grounds in central Canada. I have seen birds in Florida as early as February 27; these may have been wintering birds, for the main flight there comes during the latter part of March. I have seen birds in Texas as late as May 17. C. J. Pennock’s migration dates for Delaware run from April 23 to May 29, where it is a regular spring migrant. Long Island marks about its northern limit on the Atlantic coast in spring. It usually arrives in southern Manitoba about the middle or last of April. A. G. Lawrence sends me an unusually early record for Whitewater Lake, April 8, 1925. From the first to the middle of May it arrives on its breeding grounds in northern Alberta and farther north, as far as the limit of trees. Dr. Joseph Grinnell (1900) writes:

This proved to be a common bird in the Kowak Valley. Its arrival was noted In the vicinity of our winter camp on May 19, and from that day on Its presence could hardly he overlooked, for as one approached their domains the yellowlegs would fly to meet him, uttering prolonged, monotonous cries. Besides these notes of alarm the males had a full, melodious warble, sung for minutes at a time as they flew slowly about overhead. Their favorite haunts appeared to he the meadows lying between strips of timber, especially If there was a shallow lake or pond In the vicinity.

Nesting: MacFarlane recorded in his notes some 30 nests of this yellow-legs, found by him and his men in the wooded country about Fort Anderson and its vicinity from 1862 to 1866. He speaks of it as ‘a very noisy bird” that “will keep going before one, from tree to tree, for several hundred yards beyond its nest.” One nest is described as “near a lake, a small hole in the ground, with a few decayed willow leaves underneath the eggs”; another nest was ” about 150 yards from a lake, on a rising, thinly wooded piece of ground “; another was “on the face of a low hill, or rising ground, in the midst of a tuft of hay, or rather of a ‘t~te-de-femme,’ made of a very few dead leaves in a depression”; others were “underneath or shaded by some stunted willows on the border’s of a swampy tract, lined with a few withered grasses.”

J. Fletcher Street (1923) has published an interesting account of the nesting habits of this species in Alberta, from which I quote as follows:

As Mr. Thomson had told us we found the chosen nesting site of the yellow-legs to be on relatively high ground at an elevation from a few feet to a possible 30 feet or more above the level of the ponds. Invorlably the nests were found not closer than 100 feet from the water’s edge and sometimes as far away as 200 yards. Generally a sloping bank, a ridge or a level plateau was chosen for the immediate nesting site. No nests were noted in the hevily forested area; all of those secured in the region about Belvedere being found among broken hills covered with burnt and fallen timber with a second growth largely of low poplars, the burnt stubs affording excellent perches for the birds. Therefore the assumption would be that amid normal conditions the species would select rather open and high woodlands with sp rse, low undergrowth within a reasonable distance of marshy or grassy ponds.

It is not until the full clutch of eggs is laid that the birds show that degree of concern which leads to their undoing. Then there is great excitement on the nesting grounds. The female bird will fly about with drooping legs and tail, keeping up an incessant kip, kip, and alighting upon near-by stubs. In this the mule will join her, but not to the same dezree, frequently, after the initial rally, flying away to the lake. His darker breast markings and slightly larger size readily Identify him. I~ the observer retires nod conceals himself the excitement of the female will gradually subside, she will fly from stub to stub, at length become silent, look about inquiringly and take a short flight to the ground and run to the nest. After settling she may be approached wIthin 4 feet before flushing which she does with a loud call of alarm. While on the nest sbe sits low and close.

The nest is a mere depression In the ground, lined with a few leaves or a small amount of dry grass, the cup having a diameter of 3.5 to 4 inches and a depth of 1.25 to 1.50 inches. It may be located next to a stub, along a prostrate log or in the open.

Richard C. Harlow, who collected with Mr. Street in the same region, tells me that this bird will sometimes scratch out several hollows within a radius of 50 or 75 yards and line some of them with dry aspen leaves before laying in the one selected. Three of the nests found by Mr. Harlow were close to or between fallen burnt logs and one was in a bushy situation in a clearing near the edge of some woods. The nests were lined with dry leaves of poplar and aspen and a few dry grasses. One set that he collected for me was at the base of a small bush on dry barrens, half a mile from water. Richard H. Rauch in the same general locality found a nest in what he calls an unusual location, 10 yards from the margin of a small lake in a very wet muskeg; the nest was a depression in the moss, lined with a few dry birch leaves.

Eggs: The yellow-legs lays four eggs, occasionally only three. These are ovate pyriform in shape and have a slight gloss. The ground colors usually vary from “olive-buff” to “cream-buff” and rarely from “honey yellow” to “cartridge buff,” or from “light pinkish cinnamon”to “pinkish buff.” The more richly colored eggs are often boldly and handsomely marked. Some are quite evenly covered with small blotches and spots; others also have large, irregular blotches and splashes, chiefly about the larger end and often with a spiral trend. These markings are in dark rich browns, “chocolate,” “liver brown,” “bay,” and “chestnut brown,” sometimes deepening almost to black, where the pigment is thickest. Many large underlying blotches and spots of various shades of “purple-drab” and “ecru-drab” are conspicuous and add to the beauty of the eggs. There is an albino egg in the national collection, creamy white with only a few small pale brown spots. The measurements of 51 eggs average 42 by 28.9 millimeters; the eggs showing the four extremes measure 45 by 30, 42 by 30.5, 39.5 by 29.5, and 41 by 27.5 millimeters.

Young: Incubation is shared by both sexes, but we have no information as to its duration. MacFarlane found a pair of yellowlegs with three recently hatched young “in a small watery swamp,” where the young were able to conceal themselves in the short grass. Mr. Street (1923) says:

Young were found for the first time on June 4. Both male and female at this time were highly excited, the female approaching wIthin 10 feet of us.

All the young had left the nest and had taken refuge in the shade of a log to escape the burning rays of the sun. No eggshells were found in the nest or near by. As we retired from the immediate locality the female flew clown to the ground and softly “kipped” as if to rally the scattered young. On the succeeding day a nest was found which at 10 a. m. contained one young and two eggs At 12.30 p. m. all the birds had hatched and had left the nest. being found quite a distance away. One bird ~vas walking, readily Indicating that the migration to t~e water must start within a few hours of the time that the young are out of the eggs.

After June 0 all the same excitement that characterized the action of the adult birds at the nesting site was transplanted to the meadow lands. One uninitiated in the ways of the species might easily suppose that he waA now upon the breeding grounds, for the young keep well concealed and are difficult to discover. Perhaps the exhibition of the adults at this time and the secretive habits of the birds during the early days of the mating have tended to keep the nesting habits of the lesser yeltowlegs so long a mystery.

Plumages: In natal down the young yellow-legs is ” pinkish buff” on the back, shading off to “cartridge buff” on the crown, to paler buff on the forehead and sides of the head and to pure white on the under parts; there is an indistinct frontal black stripe; the crown is heavily mottled with brownish black; a black stripe extends from the bill through the eye to the nape; and there are three broad bands on the center and sides of the back and large patches on the rump and thighs of brownish black.

Young birds develop rapidly, the juvenal plumage coming in first on the sides of the breast, scapulars, and wings. A young bird, taken July 10, is nearly fully grown; the crown and neck fully feathered, the breast nearly so, and the wings and tail nearly grown. In this fresh juvenal plumage the feathers of the crown are tipped with whitish, and those of the back, scapulars, and wing coverts are edged, tipped, or notched with pale buff to white.

Subsequent molts and plumages are similar to and very much like those of the greater yellow-legs. I have seen a number of birds in what I call the first nuptial plumage migrating northward; they may breed in this plumage. I have seen several adults molting their primaries in January and February.

Food: The favorite feeding grounds of the yellow-Ieg~ are on flat marshes near the coast, where the grass is short and where the high course of tides or heavy rains leave the marshes partially covered, or dotted, with shallow pools or splashes; away from the coast it is equally at home in wet, short-grass marshes, mud flats, shallow ponds and even wet places in cultivated fields. In such places it walks about in an active manner, usually in shallow water, but often up to the full length of its long legs, gleaning most of its food from the surface of the water or mud and seldom probing for it. During one season on Monomoy large numbers of yellow-legs frequented the drier parts of the meadows where the long grass had been beaten down flat by the storms of the previous winter. These places seemed to hold some strong attraction for them, for they repeatedly returned after being driven off. While we remained partially concealed in some clumps of tall grass, they frequently alighted near us and ran nimbly about over the flattened grass, darting rapidly in various directions to pick up food. The grass was full of minute grasshoppers and other small insects on which they were feeding. Evidently this food was unusually abundant that season, for I have never seen them there in any numbers since 1921.

Arthur H. I-lowell (1924) says that, in Alabama, “this bird feeds mainly on insects, including ants, bugs, flies, and grasshoppers, and on small crustaccans, small fishes and worms.” Dr. Alexander Wetmore (1916) reporting on the food of four birds, taken in Porto Rico, says that “water boatmen found in each of the four make 57.5 per cent, and two stomachs contained nothing else. Crustacean remains, among which were several crabs, were identified in two stomachs, and make the remainder, 42.5 per cent.”

The contents of nine stomachs taken by Stuart T. Danforth (1925) in Porto Rico were examined:

Dytiscid larvae formed 26.6 per cent of the animal matter, and Hydrophulid larvae, 1.8 per cent; Bloedworms, 5.1 per cent; Planorbia snails, S per cent; Fleabeetles 1.1 per cent; Hydrophilid adults, 3.1 per cent; Dytiscid adult, 0.7 per cent; grasshoppers, 0.22 per cent; Bupestrid beetle, 0.55 per cent; Lycosid spider, 0.55 per cent; Notonectidee, 1 per cent; fish scales, 0.33 per cent; Carabid beetle (Stenous sp.), 0.55 per ccnt; and other beetles, 3.2 per cent.

Behavior: Either in flight or on the ground the two yellow-legs are so much alike that one is often mistaken for the other, unless a direct comparison in size can be made. William Brewster (1925) has expressed it very well, as follows:

The summer yellow-legs seems an exact counterpart of the winter in respect to general appearance and behavior. It has the same firm, measured step, when walking about in quest of food; the same perfection of form and outlines, and grace of position, when standing erect and watchful; the same habit of tilting its body and alternately lengthening and shortening its neck with a bobbing motion, when suspicious of danger and about to take wing. Its flight, also, is essentially similar to that of its big cousin, but somewhat slower and more buoyant, and hence not so suggestive of momentum as that of the larger, heavier-bodied bird.

The lesser yellow-legs is more universally common than the greater and more apt to associate with other species of small waders, where it towers above them, as it stalks gracefully about on its long legs. It is more apt to be seen in large flocks, though the flocks are seldom compact and are usually much scattered, especially when feeding. And it is much less shy; although usually rather watchful and wary, not easily approached by a moving object, it is often surprisingly tame. If the observer is sitting down and motionless, even in plain sight, the birds will often fly back and forth over him or even alight on the ground near him.

I have often seen yellow-legs bathing, but Aretas A. Saunders (1926) describes it better than I can, as follows:

To do this a bird would go to the deeper, clearer water forming the midchannel of the pond, the same spot where the black ducks bathed earlier in the morning. There it would sit down in the water, remaining still for a time. Then it would splash water over its back and wings, duck its head, and sit still again. When sitting thus in the water its tail was usually half spread, and resting on or just under the water surface. When the bath was over the bird would stand up, stretch its wIngs and then preen, taking care to go over carefully all the feathers of the back, wing, and breast and scratching with ita toes those portions it could not reach with the bill.

He observed them fighting also and says:

Why they should fight at this season of the year, when the mating season was over and the food supply seemed abundant enough for all comers, is not easily explained. Yet it was a common thing to see two birds stand facing each other with heads and necks up, and bills tilted at an angie a little above the horizontal. After eyelng each other a short time, one would dart at the other, apparently trying to get its bill above its opponent’s and strike at the latter’s eyes. The second bird would dodge back and then return the attempted blow. They never actually struck each other, and after several such tiffs one bird would crouch down in front of the other, the yellowlegs’ way of surrendering, and the other bird would stalk off and pick a fight with some other that had been peacefully feeding. Sometimes the fight varied from this form and the birds lowered their heads at the beginning like roosters and then fluttered up into the air as they went at each other.

The well-known bobbing habit is well described in some notes sent to me by Francis II. Allen, as follows:

Watched one on a slough for about an hour. Method of bobbing was to raise the head by stretching the neck and at the same time lower the tail, the whole body being held rigid, then lower the head with the bill pointing somewhat downward and raise the tail to normal. The body seems to turn on a pivot, but the lengthening of the neck is an independent movement.

Voice: .John T. Nichols has sent me some very elaborate notes on the varied calls of the yellow-legs, from which I quote as follows:

When on the ground in flocks the lesser yellow-legs is usually silent. The same is true frequently of single birds coming in. In the air it is more or less noisy and has two common, distinct notes: whee and kip or keep, whicb seem to he used rather indiscriminately on various occasions and which vary into one another. Wandering singles and small companies seem to use the whcis more, often double. The combination wheu hip is frequent. From large companies, especially in uncertainty, one may hear a chorus of kips.

(1) The yodle probably corresponds in significance with that of the greater yellow-legs location. It is certainly its homolog and scarcely, if at all. distinguishable from it. When a flock of a half dozen lesser yellow-legs caine to decoys, one bird alighted first, had a low-pitched, unfamiliar too-die-1~oo-lLoo, too-die-hoo-Aoo, too-die-iwo-iwo, before the others, still on the wing, came back and alighted with it. Though probably of similar derivation, this note was quite different from the yodle of the species, and is probably more of a gather call (Long Island, August).

(2) The wlieu is a regular fligkt note, likely advertisement. Generally silent birds alighted, sometimes call an occasional single ickeu (at such times particularly soft and mellow) before others drop in to join them, as if in welcome.

When double this note of the lesser yellow-legs is at times clear and full, ~limcuit to differentiate from that of the larger species, and apparently likewise characteristic of a “gentle” bird, which will Join decoys or others alighted.

(5) Whereas the wilcu note of the lesser yellow-legs is most frequently single and very seldom more than double, I have heard a variation of it in series from one of an alighted flock (Mastic, July 13, 1919), hyu-hyu-hyuhyu-hyu, etc. Presumably this was in protest at my presence, corresponding to the similar note of the larger species.

(6) Soft, unloud murmuring of a flock in chorus, pa yu pa, etc., characteristically heard, as on August 10, 1919, from a flock moving leisurely over the meadows, after having been flushed, to shortly alight again, expressive of compenion.slLip and confidence.

(7) When dropping down to alight, often hovering over decoys, a flock of lesser yellow-legs has soft short cup, cup, cup, etc., notes.

(8) At the instant of flushing almost the identical notes as above given hurriedly with more emphasis. This for the lesser yellow-legs is a rough analog of the cheeping note of the pectoral sandpiper, but in view of the different habits of the two species, can not be said to be strictly analogous with same.

(10) An unloud chuckle or series of short notes suggesting a very distant jack curlew, heard sometimes, not very frequently, when one or more birds take wing. Should probably be considered a flushing note or signal to take wing. Seems like the attempt of one individual to reproduce the preceding, which is often from several birds of a flock.

(11) The kip is likely one bird calling to another close-by. It is typically a flocking note, otherwise used almost exactly as is note No. 2. A variation, keup, with broader sound, approaching the whea, expressing attention, is frequent. It has been heard from a flock of birds which had been resting and bathing, just before taking wing (Mastic, September 15, 1918).

(12) An infrequent note of quite different character from the lesser yellowlegs’ ordinary calls Is very high and dear, queep. It is subject to much variation, as peep-quip, aep I hut is characterized by the high ee sound. It has been heard from birds alighted, more particularly when their companions, alarmed or for some other reason, move on, and is thought of as the tarrying individual’. note. On August 17, 1919, I had picked up decoys preparatory to leaving a pool in the meadows when a single lesser yellow-legs came down to the pool calling a similar kee-a on the wing, though I was in full view. It went on without alighting with ivheu notes characteristic of the species. Probably this was an individual which wanted to stay, from a small company which had left the meadow.

(13) Wounded birds, on being pursued and captured, have a harsh scream of fear, cheerp. I have noticed this from birds of the year in southward migration only, not from adults under the same circumstances.

The above numbers indicate notes analogous with those of the greater yellow-legs, similarly numbered. Where the lesser has no notes analogous with certain notes of the greater, these numbers are omitted.

Field marks: There is no conspicuous character, except size, by which the lesser yellow-legs can be distinguished in life from the greater, unless one is expert enough to recognize the notes, which are varied and variable in both species. From nearly all othei~ species it can be distinguished by its slender, shapely heac~ and neck and by its long, conspicuously yellow legs. Its light, almost white, tail and rump contrast conspicuously with its uniformly dark back and wings; adults in worn nuptial plumage appear almost black on the upper parts; and there is no conspicuous white mark in the wings. The lesser yellow-legs is most likely to be confused with the long-legged stilt sandpiper in immature plumage; but the latter is somewhat smaller and has olive-colored legs instead of yellow. Adult stilt sandpipers, before they have entirely lost the barred under parts, can be recognized by these marks and by other characters described under that species.

Fall: Adult summer yellow-legs in worn nuptial plumage reach New England in July, thus deserving the name. My earliest date is July 11, but they are often abundant before the end of that month. The young birds appear about a month later; the loose flocks are made up of both ages in August; the adults usually depart before the end of August, and few young birds are left after the middle of September.

Mr. Nichols says in his notes:

It has frequently been remarked by old shore-bird gunners ou Long Island that the lesser yeliowlegs and other species of shore birds in southward migration are abundant early in the season, and then after a period of comparative scarcity become again mere numerous. The explanation most commonly advanced for this condition is two flights, first the old, then the young birds. It is unquestionable that the first birds to come south are adults, but beyond that fact this hypothesis will not hold.

The fluctuation in numbers of the shore birds on Long Island during the fall migration period may best be explained by supposing that the bulk of each species has a more or less definite late-summer range to which it travels from the breeding grounds and where, if conditions are favorable, it remains until autumn. Befure the main flight, birds of each species are mostly adults, during It, mixed adults and young. To explain double abundance of most species in southward migration by first the passage of adults, then that of young, is pretty surely erroneous. Where sueli double abundance does occur it is probably first birds passing through, second birds stopping to feed.

There are not infrequent records of southbound lesser yellowlegs on Long Island the end of June (June 24, 1922, my earliest at Mastic), and I have seen a flock of 40 or 50 by July 10; July 31 Is the earliest mention I chance to find in my notes of a bird of the year.

There is probably a considerable and regular migration at sea for Capt. Savile G. Reid (1884) says that in Bermuda this is “the most conspicuous and noisy of the August arrivals. It has been seen as early as July 13, but usually disappears toward the end of September. Considerable numbers fall victims to the gun, as they are not bad eating.”

C. J. Pennock has noted it in Delaware as late as October 12, and has seen it in Florida as early as September 16. It is an abundant migrant iii the interior. Edward S. Thomas tells me that in Ohio the average fall migration dates are between August 3 and October 16; he has a very late record of a specimen collected on November 29, 1923. From the prairie Provinces of Canada the main flight departs in August, hut A. G. Lawrence gives me September 29, 1923, as his latest date.

J. A. Munro tells me that it is “an abundant autumn migrant” at Okanagan Landing, British Columbia; his dates run from July 9 to September 1. This species seems to be a rare migrant on th~ ooast~ of Washington and California.

Game: The summer yellow-legs has always been a popular game bird and has always been counted in the class of “big birds.” It is still fairly abundant, but occurs in nothing like its former numbers. Giraud (1844) was informed by a noted gunner “that he killed 106 yellow-shanks by discharging both barrels of his gun into a flock while they were sitting along the beach.” No such flocks occur to-day. However, they are not all gone, for Stuart T. Danforth (1925) says that atï Cartagena Lagoon, Porto Rico, they occur In flocks of from 2 to 100. They reach their greatest abundance early in October. On October 7 and 11, 1924, I observed over 1,000, and on other days shortly before and after these dates from 500 to 800. Usually there are not over 100 present at once. They feed in the shallow open water, on the mud flats, and among the flooded grasses and sedges. They often associate with other saadpipers, especially the greater yellowlegs, stilt, and semipalmated sandpipers They are surprisingly tame while in Porto Rico, and It is slaughter, not sport, to shoot them. Sometimes the flocks are so densely packed that hunters kill as many as 20 at a single shot.

I have never felt that the summer yellow-legs should be in the game-bird class, though I must confess that it has some gamey qualities. It is, at times, absurdly tame; it decoys very easily, returns again and again to the slaughter, and its little body is so small that many lives must be sacrificed to make a decent bag. However, it i8 interesting sport to sit in a well-made blind on a marsh, with decoys skillfully arranged, and show one’s skill in whistling up these lively and responsive little birds. After all, gunning is not so much a means of filling up the larder as an excuse for getting out to enjoy the beauties of natllre and the ways of its wild creatures.

Mr. Nichols explains how it is done on Long Island, where this species has for many years furnished most of the shooting; he writes: To the Long Island gunner the yellow-legs and Its associates are known as “bay snipe.” Various customs relating to their pursuit for sport (sniping) have arisen in the course of the generations that it has been in vogue. Imitation wooden birds (“stool”) are set ont as decoys in the marshes over which the birds may be expected to pass, and the gunner stations himself within range behind a blind usually constructed of bnshes. There is opportunity for considerable skill in setting out the decoys, placing and constructing the blind, imitating the cries of the various species to draw them within range. Where possible the decoys are placed so as to be seen from every direction against a surface of water; if in a small pool scattered about, if in a larger water area, directly off some projecting point so as not to be blanketed by the land. The larger tbe show of decoys, the larger the flocks of birds that will be tempted to respond to them, and one attempts to scatter them so that each will stand apart, no three which are close together will be In line. They all face more or less directly into the wind as would alighted birds. Ideally the blind is placed to windward of the rig of decoys. Approaching birds maneuver toward it from down wind, and are so less likely to notice the gunner and take alarm before coming within range.

Winter: Although a few lesser yellow-legs may spend the winter occasionally as far north as Louisiana and Florida, the main winter home is in southern South America and very few are to be found regularly north of that continent. A. H. Holland (1892) records it as fairly common throughout the year in Argentina but more numerous from October to February. Dr. Alexander Wetmore (1926), referring to the same general region, writes:

The lesser yellow-legs was widespread in distribution after October and was more abundant on the whole than 7’otanas mclanoleucus. The birds frequented the shores of open lagoons, shallow pools, or coastal mud flats, and though found distributed singly or two or three together it was not unusual to encounter them in larger bands that might contain 100 individuals. On their wintering grounds they were rather silent, hut with the opening of northward migration resumed iheir habit of uttering musical though noisy calls when disturbed in any manner. On the pampas they congregated during drier seasons about lagoons and flocks often snught refuge from the violent winds that swept the open plains behind scant screens of rushes. After any general rain these flocks dispersed to poois of rain water in the pastures, where insect food was easily available. The winter population was thus not stationary, hut shifted constantly with changes in the weather. Ily the first of March the lesser yellow-legs had begun their northward movement and numbers were founti near Guamini, where they paused to rest after a northward flight from Patagonia. In their case, as in that of other migrant species from North America, it was instructive to note that the migration southward came In September and October when the birds traveled southward with the unfolding of the southern spring and that the return northward was initiated by the approach of rigorous weather in faraway 1’atagunia. Migrant flocks, many of whose members offered sad evidence of inhospitable treatment at the hands of Argentine gunners in the shape of broken or missing legs, were noted on the plains of Mendoza, near the base of the Andes, in March. And during early April the migration became a veritable rush so that on the night of April 5, at Tucuman, the air was filled with the cries of these and other waders In steady flight northward above the city.

Range: North and South America.

Breeding range: The yellow-legs breeds north to Alaska (Kowak River and Fort Yukon); Mackenzie (Fort Anderson, Rendezvous Lake, and Horton River); and Ungava (Fort George and Whale River). East to Ungava (Whale River); and formerly New York (Phelps). South to formerly New York (Phelps); formerly Indiana (Lake County); formerly Illinois (near Chicago); Wisconsin (Lake Koshkonong); and central Alberta (Belvedere). West probably to northern British Columbia (Bennett and Telegraph Creek); Yukon (Lake Marsh); and Alaska (Eagle and Kowak River).

Nonbreeding individuals are frequently observed in summer south of the breeding range: Nebraska (Lincoln); Colorado (Barr, Loveland, and Las Animas); Wyoming (Albany County); Montana (Fort Keogh, and Terry); and Oregon (Corvallis and Malheur Lake).

Winter range: North to Sinaloa (Mazatlan); the coast of Texas (Fort Brown and Refugio County); Louisiana (State Game Preserve); and Florida (Pensacola, Goose Creek, and Wilson). East to Florida (Wilson, and Royal Palm Hammock); Jamaica; the Bahama Islands; Porto Rico; rarely the Lesser Antilles (Barbuda and Carriacou) ; British Guiana (Bartica Grove, Camacusa, and Altagracia); French Guiana (Cayenne); Brazil (Mapa, Mexiana, Marajo, Cantagallo, and Novo Fribourgo); Uruguay (Lazcano and San Vicente); and Argentina (Buenos Aires, Azul, and the Chubut Valley). South to Argentina (Chubut Valley); and Chile (Gregory Bay, Straits of Magellan, Santiago, and Valparaiso). West to Chile (Valparaiso, Puerto del Huasco, Atacama, and Tarapaca); Peru (Chorillos, Junin, and Cajabamba); Ecuador (Canar, Babahoyo, and Quito); Colombia (Medellin and Cartagena); probably Panama (Culebra); Costa Rica (La Estrella de Cartago) ; probably Nicaragua (Escondido River); Jalisco (La Barca) ; and Sinaloa (Mazatlan).

Spring migration: Early dates of spring arrival are: Georgia, Cumberland, March 12; South Carolina, Charleston, March 5, and Frogmore, March 20; North Carolina, Corolla, March 15, and Atlantic, March 19; District of Columbia, Washington, March 12; Maryland, Havre de Grace, March 15; Bermuda, April 26; Pennsylvania, State College, April 1; New Jersey, Cape May Court House, April 1, and Morristown, April 6; New York, Branchport, March 26, and Roslyn, April 3; Connecticut, Hartford, April 19; Massachusetts, Taunton, April 4, and Monomoy Island, April 29; Vermont, Hartford, April 28; Maine, Pittsfield, April 26, and Saco, May 1; Quebec, Montreal, April 30, and Godbout, May 5; New Brunswick, Scotch Lake, May 2; Nova Scotia, Kentville, Apzil 21; Mississippi, Bay St. Louis, March 13; Kentucky, Bowling Green, March 27; Missouri, Marionville, March 14, Corning, March 15, and Independence, March 25; Illinois, Lebanon, March 29, and Rantoul, March 31; Indiana, Bicknell, March 30, Greencastle, April 1, and Terre Haute, April 8; Ohio, Sandusky, March 18, and Oberlin, March 30; Michigan, Hillsdale, March 31, Ann Arbor, April 9, and Detroit, April 11; Ontario, Oshawa, April 19, Ottawa, April 25, and Roaboro, April 30; Iowa, Sioux City, March 11, and Iowa City, March 30; Wisconsin, Fox Lake, April 3, New London, April 7, and Milwaukee, April 8; Minnesota, Jackson, March 18, Heron Lake, March 24, and Lanesboro, April 7; central and northern Texas. San Antonio, March 20, Dallas, March 22, Bonham, March 23, and Electra, March 24; Oklahoma, Caddo, March 11, and Copan, March 28; Kansas, Leroy, March 12, and Manhattan, March 23; ~ebraska, Falls City, March 23, Callaway, March 26, and Lincoln, March 27; South Dakota, Forestburg, April 1, Harrison, April 13, Sioux Falls, April 16; North Dakota. Westhope, April 10, and Charison, April 18; Manitoba, Greenridge, April 7, Reaburn, April 13, and Margaret, April 15; Saskatchewan, Qu’Appelle, April 9, Lake Johnston, April 16. and Eastend, April 17; Mackenzie, Hay River, May 2, Fort Resolution, May 5, Fort Simpson, May 9, and Fort Reliance, May 13; New Mexico, Glenrio, April 15; Colorado, Durango, April 5, Denver, April 19, and Salida, April 25; Wyoming, Lake Como, May 5; Montana, Terry, May 6, and Choteau, May 8; Alberta, Onoway, April 13, Edmonton, April 17, Stony Plain, April 22, and Athabaska Landing, May 17; California, Fresno, April 10, and Santa Barbara, April 24; Oregon, GasThn March 7, Malheur Lake, March 8, and Kiamath Lake, March 31; ~shington, Menlo, April 27; British Columbia, Okanagan Landing, M~rch 23, and Courtenay, April 16; and Alaska, Nulato, April 29, and Chilcot River, May 12.

Late dates of spring departure are: Argentina, Tafi Viejo, April 15; Chile, Concepcion, April 14; Florida, Bradentown, May 1, and Pensacola, May 25; Georgia, Savannah, May 28; South Carolina, Charleston, May 26; North Carolina, Lake Ellis, May 10, Raleigh, May 18, and Cape Hatteras, May 20; Virginia, Chesapeake Bay, May 12, and hog Island, May 16; District of Columbia, Washington, May 17; Maryland, Patapsco, May 17; Pennsylvania, State College, May 17, 1)oylestown, May 20, and Limerick, May 22; New Jersey, Ilackettstown, May 16, and Morristown, May 19; New York, Amagansett, May 25, Rockaway, June 1, and Locust Grove, June 7; Connecti cut, Norwalk, May 22; Massachusetts, Boston, May 20, and Woods Hole, May 24; Vermont, Wells River, June 3; Maine, Winthrop, June 1; Louisiana, Vermilion Bay, April 27; Mississippi, Bay St. Louis, May 10; Arkansas, Stuttgart, May 14; Illinois, Chicago, May 15, De KaIb, May 23, and Rantoul, May 26; Indiana, Terre Haute, May 12, Hobart, May 13, and Bicknell, May 18; Ohio, Painesville, May 26, Columbus, May 28, and Oberlin, May 30; Michigan, Manistee, May 20; Ontario, Modoc, May 28, and Ottawa, May 31; Iowa, Waterloo, May 30, Forest City, May 31, and Sioux City, June 4; Wisconsin, New Richmond, May 15, La Crosse, May 21, and Madison, May 27; Minnesota, Clarissa, May 23, and Jackson, May 27; Texas, Dallas, May 20, Brownsville, May 24, and Huntsville, May 28; Oklahoma, Copan, May 19; Kansas, Ellis, May 18, and Wichita, May 20; Nebraska, Long Pine, May 16, Badger, May 10, and Lincoln, May 20; South Dakota, Vermilion, May 28, Harrison, May 29, and Sioux Falls, June 11; North Dakota, Charlson, May 17, Bismarck, May 18, and Harrisburg, June 11; Manitoba, Aweme, May 20, Margaret, June 1, and Whitewater Lake, June 10; Saskatchewan, Indian Head, May 28, Touchwood Hills, May 30, and South Qu’Appelle, June 1; New Mexico, Glenrio, May 16; Colorado, Barr, May 17, and Boulder, May 20; Wyoming, Laramie River, June 1; Montana, Choteau, May 26, Corvallis, May 31, and Terry, June 12; California, Fresno. May 12; Oregon, Lawen, May 10, and Klamath Lake, May 18; and British Columbia, Mirror Lake, May 30.

Fall migration: Early dates of fall arrival are: British Columbia, Okanagan Landing, July 9, and Atlin, July 12; Washington. Tacoma, July 7, Ozette Island, July 11, and The Olympiades, July 12; Oregon, Malheur Lake, July 1, and Corvallis, July 10; California, Goleta, August 11, and Santa Barbara, August 16; Montana, Milk River, July 25, and Billings, July 31; Wyoming, Camp Caning, July 28; Colorado, Barr, July 5, Boulder, July 9, and Stcrling, July 22; Arizona, San Bernardino Ranch, August 2; New Mexico. (luarlalupe Mountains, August 7, and State Collegc, August 10; Saskatchewan, Quill Lake, July 5. and Kiddleston, July 7; Manitoba, Margaret, July 4, Oak Lake, July 12, and Shoal Lake, July 13; South Dakota, Forestburg, July 1, and P inc Ridge Reservation, July 12; Nebraska, Valentine, July 11, and Lincoln, July 14; Oklahoma, Copan, August 7; Minnesota, Hallock, July 6, and St. Vincent, July 23; Wisconsin, Madison, July 22, and North Freedom, July 28; Iowa, Winnebago, July 27, Sioux City, August 3, and Wall Lake, August 4; Ontario, Lac Seul, July 5, Port Dover, July 17, and Toronto, July 18; Michigan, Jackson, July 17; Ohio, Cedar Point, July 5, Bay Point, July 11, and Youngstown, July 27; Indiana, Hobart, July 9; Illinois, Chicago, July 2, La Grange, July 4, and Addison, July 19; Mississippi, Biloxi, July 12, and Bay St. Louis, July 13; Nova Scotia, Wolfville, July 27; Maine, Pittsfield, July 26; Vermont, Rutland, July 27; Massachuaetta, Chatham, July 4, Harvard, July 13, and Cape Cod, July 15; Connecticut, North Haven, July 21; New York, Mastic, June 24, East Hampton, July 8, and Geneva, July 16; New Jersey, Parkerton, July 1, Cape May, July 4, and Long Beach, July 9; Maryland, Ocean City, July 20; Bermuda, July 13; Virginia, Wallops Island, July 26; North Carolina, Currituck Sound, July 5, and Pea and Bodie Islands, July 8; South Carolina, Charleston, July 15; Florida, Ponce Park, July 12, Key West, July 16, and Pensacola, July 18; the Lesser Antilles, Barbados, July 4, Grenada, July 10, and St. Croix, July 26; and Argentina, Las Palmas, July 31.

Late dates of fall departure are: Alaska, St. George Island, October 18; Oregon, Klamath Lake, November 17; California, Redwood City, November 28; Alberta, Dorenlee, October 3, and Nanton, October 5; Montana, Choteau, September 4; Colorado, Boulder, September 28, and Denver, October 3; Saskatchewan, South Qu’Appelle, October 16; Manitoba, Margaret, October 12, Oak Lake, October 13, and Reaburn, October 17; North Dakota, Harrisburg, October 26; South Dakota, Forestburg, October 25, and Fort Sisseton, October 28; Nebraska, Falls City, November 15, and Lincoln, November 17; Minnesota, St. Vincent, October 1, and Lanesboro, October 11; Wisconsin, North Freedom, October 6, Madison, October 7, and Meridian, November 1; Iowa, Gilbert Station, October 22, Marshalltown, November 1, and Emmetsburg, November 1; Ontario, London, October 14, and Ottawa, October 18; Michigan, Sault Ste. Marie, October 20, Ann Arbor, October 21, and Lansing, October 28; Ohio, Youngstown, October 27, Sandusky, November 4, and Columbus, November 29; Indiana, Indianapolis, October 23; Illinois, De Kalb, October 10, Rantoul, October 30, and Aledo, November 3; Missouri, Kansas City, November 23; Nova Scotia, Pictou, October 8; New Brunswick, Scotch Lake, October 28; Quebec, Montreal, October 7, and Koksoak River, October 8; Maine, Kennebec County, October 15, and Pittsfield, October 20; Massachusetts, Taunton, October 20, and Monomoy, November 11; New York, Orient, October 18, Branchport, October 21, and Ithaca, November 10; New Jersey, Sandy Hook, October 25; Pennsylvania, State College, October 28, and Waynesburg, November 2; Maryland, Cambridge, October 25; District of Columbia, Anacostia, November 1; Virginia, Hog Island, November 12; and South Carolina, Charleston, November 3.

Casual records: The yellow-legs has been recorded from the Pribilof Islands (St. Paul Island, June 11, 1890); and three times from England (Nottinghamshire, about 1854, Cornwall, September, 1871, and Fair Isle, Shetland Islands, September, 1910). Moschler (1856) reported that in 1854 he received a specimen from Greenland.

Egg dates: Alberta and Manitoba: 38 records, May 15 to June 16; 19 records, May 27 to June 4. Arctic Canada: 28 records, June 2 to July 1; 14 records, June 20 to 27. Labrador Peninsula: 7 records, June 3 to July 2.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Would you like to get new articles of birds (Once a month?)

No SPAM! We might only send you fresh updates once a month

Thank you for subscribing!

No thanks! I prefer to follow BirdZilla on Facebook