Thursday, April 30, 2015

Greater Yellowlegs

The Greater Yellowlegs is one of the bigger sandpipers. Open marsh such as in this photo, mudflats, streams and ponds are all typical habitat. It breeds across Canada and Southern Alaska, so this is just a stop on it's migration.

It looks very duck-like in this photo. Actually, it was sunbathing. You may not know that many species of birds do that. They will spread their feathers out allowing the sun to heat up the oils used to keep their feathers waterproofed and in good condition. It is simply not typical to see a bird sunbathe while sitting in water.

Next, it was time for a bath. The Greater Yellowlegs has a habit of bobbing it's head. There is another sandpiper, the Spotted Sandpiper, that will almost continually bob it's back end and can be identified by this characteristic alone. The Yellowlegs will stretch it's head out full length and then pull it down, so it is kind of a reverse bob which goes up instead of down.

The Greater Yellowlegs has a fairly loud musical whistle, often directed at the approaching observer. This one didn't do that to me when I approached to film it, but it did get vocal when another species of Sandpiper flew into the same area.

Here, it is looking at the sky, a sure sign a predatory bird has entered the area. I looked, but was unable to spot an eagle or hawk this time, but in most cases, they are good a tipping you off.

Believe it or not, these large sandpipers were once a popular game bird. The common name in that era was tattler because of it's penchant for raising an alarm.

You can just see the back end of a minnow that the Greater Yellowlegs is getting ready to swallow. It has a very similar feeding technique to the Snowy Egrets which will run around very actively, racing one way and then another trying to catch fish. At other times, it moves methodically, probing mud and grasses for crustaceans, insects and snails. I wondered at one point if it might not be eating fish eggs deposited by minnows.

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