and Greater Yellowlegs are similar in migratory patterns and feeding
habits and almost identical in appearance except for size. It is easy to
identify them if, as is often the case, they are observed in company. If
luck would have it that you find only one yellowlegs, there are other ways
Lesser’s short, soft call is a
mellow “tew” or “tew tew.” Greater’s clear ringing staccato “tew”
sounds 3-5 times. If the birds are silent and you are close enough,
compare the bills: Lesser’s straight black bill is roughly equal to the
head length while Greater’s is wide at base and longer, about 1 1/2
times as long as the head.
Lesser has long yellow legs and is
less heavily marked at all seasons. In the winter bird, neck and breast
are streaked, belly white. In flight, a white rump patch is visible.
Breeding Plumage: Lesser’s
neck and head are delicately black-streaked, back mottled and sides
Immature: Lesser Yellowlegs juv
appears more brownish than adult with heavier breast streaking.
Habitat: Pools, marshes, tidal
mudflats, agricultural areas. Lesser walks purposefully in shallow to
belly-deep water, prob-ing for snails, insects, worms and small fish.
Greater may go rapidly, helter-skelter, skimming the surface and sweeping
its bill. Both are always on the move, bobbing heads and tails.
Both yellowlegs are winter residents of Florida, August - May. They
breed in the tundra and swampy subartic forests.
Text by Mary Jean Rogers, West Volusia