Yellowlegs at Work

In the extreme low (minus 0.5) tide on December 5, half a dozen Snowy Egrets and about twice as many Marbled Godwits worked the wide band of exposed mud.  Among these frequent visitors, a different creature caught my eye.  The Greater Yellowlegs is not unknown here, but also not common.  I last saw one this past August, which, however, is a very odd time for one to be here — they’re supposed to be off breeding in Canada at that time.  Their usual time on the local stage is in winter, like around now, with temperatures in the low forties.  They migrate, like other snowbirds, but not in great flocks.  This one appeared to be solo, which is typical.  It was a hard worker.  It pecked more selectively, not like a sewing machine like the Godwits.  Once it found an interesting pool, it circled round and round, stabbing the mud in all directions.  I didn’t see it catch any prey big enough to open its beak, but maybe it was feeding on smaller morsels, using its beak like a straw.

Not much is known about this species, in part (says the Cornell bird lab website) because it does its breeding in boreal swamps dense with mosquitoes.  What researcher wants to go there?

The Greater has a cousin, the Lesser.  The easiest distinctive feature is beak size.  The long beak on this bird mark it, with confidence, as a Greater.


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