American Game Birds

Illustrating More Than One Hundred Species In Natural Colors

By Chester A. Reed

Page 37

GREATER YELLOW-LEGS (Totanus melanoleucus). During migrations, these rather large shore birds, measuring about 14 in. in length, appear abundantly in meadows, marshes, about ponds, streams or even on sandy beaches. They wade in the shallows, picking up all forms of animal life, even small fishes, or run with graceful carriage along the shore. While they may at times be met in large flocks, they usually go in companies of about six. They are exceedingly wary and suspicious; at the first sight of anyone approaching, away they go uttering loud warning whistles which resemble wheu-wheu-wheu, alarming everything within hearing, often to the great discomfiture of the sportsmen. Because of these tactics they are not very favorably regarded, as some of their local names show, such as "Greater Tell-tale," " Tattler" and "Yelper." They are also termed "Winter Yellow-legs," because they appear within our border later in fall than the next species, usually not coming until August, while the next species arrives in July. Their call note is a clear, musical tu-wcep, very different from the alarm cry.

     It is a beautiful sight to watch a company of Yellow-legs arriving at their feeding grounds. We hear the calls indicating their approach even before the birds become visible high in the air. Sweeping swiftly down on their long angular wings, they circle about once or twice to make sure no enemies are lurking, then sail gracefully to the ground; as soon as their feet touch earth, their wings are carefully stretched upward to their fullest extent and then properly tucked away on the back. This is a habit that many shore birds have upon alighting.

     Greater Yellow-legs breed in northern Canada and winter from the Gulf States south to Patagonia.


LESSER YELLOW-LEGS (Totanus flavipes). Also called "Summer Yellow-legs," in addition to most of the local names given under the preceding. Their breeding and winter range, as well as migration routes correspond to those of the larger species. The present one measures about 11 in. in length.