Hey guys, welcome back! Well, today is my birthday! I was supposed to be in LA celebrating by birding on the west coast, but for obvious reasons I’ve had to postpone that trip until (hopefully) later this year. Oh well, I’m sure I’ll have a good birthday. Anyway, today’s bird is the lesser yellowlegs. A tall shorebird that’s fairly easy to pick out because of its namesake yellow legs. They are a sort of mottled gray brown and white above and light below with a long, pointed bill, and bright yellow legs. They’re typically a bit more brown in fall than they are in spring. This silhouette and yellow legs makes them pretty distinguishable from most other shorebirds, except for the greater yellowlegs. Because, of course, there’s a nearly identical cousin.
The greater yellowlegs is larger in size, although if the bird is wading around by itself with nothing to compare it to, you’ll probably not be able to ID it by size alone. The lesser has a smaller bill in proportion to its head as well. But, this is birds we’re talking about, so even that by itself can’t always determine what you’re looking at. Shorebirds are tough. In fact when selecting the pic to put up at the top of this post, I had to go through all the pics I have labeled “greater/lesser yellowlegs” and try to determine which, if any, were lessers. Pretty sure I got it right! I’ve seen both species standing next to each other, so I know I’ve seen them both, but you gotta get a good look to make that call.
Range-wise, the lesser yellowlegs is a migrant bird throughout the US, breeding up in central and northern Canada. They winter in only a small part of the country, mostly along the Gulf Coast, but they can be found along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts up to about San Francisco in the west and southern New Jersey in the east. During migration, however, they can be found throughout the interior of the country in the right habitat of course. They like mudflats like most shorebirds, but because of their long legs, are often in deeper water than short shorebirds like plovers. Call is also a good way to ID them, but with a couple exceptions, shorebirds aren’t that noisy. Next up is a little sparrow-ish bird with a funny name. See you then!