Lesser Yellowlegs

Tringa flavipes

The Lesser Yellowlegs is a slender, long-legged shorebird that readily shows off the brightly colored legs that give it its name. It is an active feeder, often running through the shallow water to chase its prey.

Interesting Information

  • 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.

  • A group of yellowlegs are collectively known as an "incontinence" of yellowlegs.

  • When foraging, these birds are likely to scythe their bills back and forth in the water stirring up prey.

  • While the Lesser Yellowlegs is similar in appearance to the Greater Yellowlegs, they are not closely related.


Adult Description

  • Length Range: 25-28 cm (10-11 in)

  • Weight: 82 g (2.9 oz)

  • Size: Medium (9 - 16 in)

  • Long, bright yellow legs.

  • Rather long neck and bill.

  • White rump and tail.

Sex Differences

Sexes Similar


Similar to adult.


Photo taken from: The Sibley Field Guide by David Allen Sibley

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Breeds in open boreal forest with scattered shallow wetlands. Winters in wide variety of shallow fresh and saltwater habitats.


Active forager, walks through shallow water and picks up prey on or below water surface, dashes after prey on land.


Aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, particularly flies and beetles. Occasionally small fish and seeds.



Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Scolopacidae
Genus: Tringa
Species: Tringa flavipes

Similar Species

  • The two yellowleg species are very similar. Size is marked different when they appear together and can be compared against each other. Greater Yellowlegs's bill appears slightly upturned and blunt-tipped, while Lesser Yellowlegs's bill is straight and sharp-pointed. Lesser's bill is always dark, while Greater's bill is grayish at the base in nonbreeding season. Voice is best distinguishing character: Greater gives three or four piercing notes, Lesser two rapid, softer short whistles (sometimes two or three).

  • Solitary Sandpiper has greenish legs and a barred tail.

  • Stilt Sandpiper is slightly smaller, has greenish yellow legs, and a slightly drooping bill.

Bird Sound

Two-noted short whisted "tu-tu."

Eggs look like this

Photo taken from: ARCTOS Collaborative Collection Management Solution