- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Scolopacidae
The Lesser Yellowlegs is a dainty and alert "marshpiper" that occurs in shallow, weedy wetlands and flooded fields across North America during migration. It's smaller with a shorter, more needlelike bill than the Greater Yellowlegs, but otherwise looks very similar. It breeds in the meadows and open woodlands of boreal Canada. Like many other shorebirds, the Lesser Yellowlegs rebounded from hunting in the early 20th century but has declined again from losses of wetland habitats. It is on the Yellow Watch List for species with declining populations.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Migration is the best time to find Lesser Yellowlegs if you live in the United States or southern Canada (check out this eBird animated abundance map for an idea of their movement patterns). Look for them in shallow marshes, ephemeral mudflats, and flooded fields in spring and fall, or on the tail ends of drawn-down reservoirs where nutrient-rich mudflats are exposed. Wet weather can create shallow pools in pasture or turf farms, both of which appeal to shorebirds like the Lesser Yellowlegs.
- Archibebe patigualdo chico (Spanish)
- Petit Chevalier (French)
- Cool Facts
- Despite their very similar appearance, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs are not each other’s closest relatives. Lesser Yellowlegs is more closely related to the much larger Willet.
- Lesser Yellowlegs are known for their steadfast defense of their eggs and chicks. Biologist William Rowan once noted, “they will be perched there as though the safety of the entire universe depended on the amount of noise they made.”
- Both the male and female Lesser Yellowlegs provide parental care to the young, but the female tends to leave the breeding area before the chicks can fly, thus leaving the male to defend the young until fledging.
- The Lesser Yellowlegs saw significant declines due to market hunting for the fashion trade. The species’ tendency to return and hover above wounded flockmates made them easy targets. Populations rebounded when market hunting was banned in the U.S and Canada in the early 20th century.
- The oldest recorded Lesser Yellowlegs was at least 4 years, 11 months old when it was found in South Dakota in 1965. It had been banded in the Lesser Antilles in 1960.