Lesser Yellowlegs
and Greater Yellowlegs
September 2009

A key birding issue is how to distinguish the lesser yellowlegs from the greater yellowlegs (which, incidentally, are both sandpipers that happen to have yellow legs).

The brief answer is that size matters. The greater yellowlegs is big - that is, for a sandpiper.

If you don't have a tape measure handy, observe attitude.

If the yellow-legged sandpiper in question looks shy and retiring, odds are you've come across the lesser yellowlegs (as shown below).

Lesser yellowlegs and reflection
  If, however, you come across a particularly regal looking sandpiper, one likely to kick sand in your face, you're observing the greater yellowlegs.
Greater yellowlegs
  If you prefer not to judge any nonhuman species by attitude and you forgot your tape measure, the bill to the lesser yellowlegs is quite straight, whereas the bill to the greater yellowlegs appears slightly upturned.

Photo note: I used a Pentax *ist D in April 2008 for the first and in June 2008 for the second photo, each with SMC 1000mm reflex lens.

My Pennsylvania bird list

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