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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Greater Yellowlegs -- Tringa melanoleuca

RANGE: Breeds from southern Alaska, southwestern Mackenzie, and south-central British Columbia east across the northern and central portions of the Canadian Provinces to central and southern Labrador, Newfoundland, and northeastern Nova Scotia. Nonbreeding birds sometimes summer on the wintering grounds, especially along the coasts of the United States. Winters from Oregon and southern Nevada to southern Texas, the Gulf Coast, and coastal South Carolina south to South America.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Found in the Nearctic boreal region to the edge of subarctic coniferous forest zone, where it inhabits swampy muskegs or bogs with scattered trees, wet clearings and pools, or tundra. Perches freely when breeding, often alighting on tops of trees, bushes, or dead stubs. Outside the breeding season, frequents shallow fresh, brackish, and salt waters, mudflats, river bars, tidal marshes and pools, rain pools in fields, and damp grassy meadows.


NEST: Nests in a depression on the ground, usually near trees, logs, or stumps, on a dry wooded ridge or on recently burned ground, and normally near water.

FOOD: Feeds by picking, snatching, skimming, and sweeping, but not by probing. Favors mudflats and shallow borders of lakes and streams for feeding sites, where it finds small fishes, tadpoles, worms, mollusks, snails, crabs, and insects and their larvae.

REFERENCES: Cramp and Simmons 1983, Low and Mansell 1983, Palmer 1967.

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