CDC Logo

BC Conservation Data Centre: Species Summary

Tringa melanoleuca
Greater Yellowlegs

Scientific Name: Tringa melanoleuca (Gmelin, 1789)
English Name: Greater Yellowlegs
Classification / Taxonomy
Scientific Name - Concept Reference: American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1998. Check-list of North American birds. Seventh edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. [as modified by subsequent supplements and corrections published in The Auk]. Also available online:
Classification Level: Species
Species Group: Vertebrate Animal
Species Code: B-GRYE
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Craniata Aves Charadriiformes Scolopacidae
Conservation Status / Legal Designation
Global Status: G5 (Apr 2016)
Provincial Status: S5B,SUN (Mar 2015)
BC List: Yellow
Provincial FRPA list:   
Provincial Wildlife Act:
SARA Schedule:
General Status Canada: 4 - Secure (2005)
Migratory Bird Convention Act: Y
Ecology & Life History
General Description:
Global Reproduction Comments: Breeding begins in late May or early June (Harrison 1978). Usually 4 eggs are incubated (probably by both sexes) for 23 days (Terres 1980). Nestlings are precocial. Young are tended by both adults; capable of first flight in about 18-20 days.
Global Ecology Comments: Generally not as gregarious as lesser yellowlegs; nonbreeding: usually solitary or in small groups.
Migration Characteristics:
(Global / Provincial)
    Local Migrant:
    Distant Migrant:
    Within Borders Migrant:
N /
N /
Y /
na /
Global Migration Comments: Migrates throughtout North America south of breeding range. Arrives in northern U.S. April-May or June during northward migration. Departures from breeding areas begin in mid-July (Hayman et al. 1986). Most common in fall in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands (Raffaele 1983). Migrates through Costa Rica Aug. or September-October and April-May (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Usually migrates in small flocks, day or night.
(Type / Subtype / Dependence)
Global Habitat Comments: Nonbreeding: marshes, ponds, lakes, stream margins and sand and gravel bars, lagoons, salinas, and coastal mudflats (AOU 1983, Stiles and Skutch 1989). Nests in muskeg country or at other wetlands, on the ground in a slight depression in moss or dry peat, usually near water.
Food Habits: Carnivore: Adult, Immature
Invertivore: Adult, Immature
Piscivore: Adult, Immature
Global Food Habits Comments: Feeds on small fishes, insects and their larvae, snails, crabs, worms, and tadpoles. Wades through water and pecks at food with bill or skims suface with lower mandible.
Global Phenology: Circadian: Adult, Immature
Global Phenology Comments: Foraged with comparable frequency during day and night in northeastern Venezuela (Robert et al. 1989). May migrate day or night.
Provincial Phenology:
(1st half of month/
2nd half of month)
Colonial Breeder: N
Length(cm)/width(cm)/Weight(g): 36/ / 171
Elevation (m) (min / max): Global: 
Endemic: N
Global Range Comment: BREEDING: from southern Alaska, central British Columbia, and southern Mackenzie east across northern and central parts of Canadian Provinces to Labrador, northeastern Nova Scotia, southern Quebec, and Newfoundland. NON-BREEDING: from Oregon, central California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, southern South Carolina through Mexico and Central America to Tierra del Fuego, including West Indies; rare in Hawaii. The Guianas are the major coastal nonbreeding areas in South America (Morrison and Ross 1989). Nonbreeders sometimes summer in winter range, especially in coastal U.S. and West Indies (AOU 1983). Fairly common throughout most of range.
Authors / Contributors
Global Information Author: Hammerson, G.
Last Updated: Apr 11, 1994
Provincial Information Author:
Last Updated:
References and Related Literature
American Ornithologists' Union (AOU). 1983. Check-list of North American Birds, 6th edition. Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas. 877 pp.
Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G.W. Kaiser, and M.C.E. McNall. 1990b. The Birds of British Columbia Vol. 2: Nonpasserines: Diurnal Birds of Prey through Woodpeckers. Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, BC.
Elphick, C. S., and T. L. Tibbits. 1998. Greater Yellowlegs (TRINGA MELANOLEUCA). No. 355 IN A. Poole and F. Gill, eds. The birds of North America. Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C. 23pp.
Godfrey, W.E. 1966. The birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada. Ottawa. 428 pp.
Harrison, C. 1978. A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs and Nestlings of North American Birds. Collins, Cleveland, Ohio.
Hayman, P., J. Marchant, and T. Prater. 1986. Shorebirds: an identification guide to the waders of the world. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston.
Janovy, J. 1980. Yellowlegs. 192 pp.
Morrison, R. I. G., and R. K. Ross. 1989. Atlas of Nearctic shorebirds on the coast of South America. Vols. 1 and 2. Canadian Wildl. Serv. Spec. Publ. 325 pp.
Morrison, R. I. G., R. E. Gill, Jr., B. A. Harrington, S. Skagen, G. W. Page, C. L. Gratto-Trevor, and S. M. Haig. 2001. Estimates of shorebird populations in North America. Occasional Paper Number 104, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, Ottawa, ON. 64 pages.
Oberholser, H.C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. 2 vols. Univ. of Texas Press, Austin.
Pratt, H. D., P. L. Bruner, and D. G. Berrett. 1987. A Field Guide to the Birds of Hawaii and the Tropical Pacific. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. 409 pp. + 45 plates.
Raffaele, H. A. 1983a. A guide to the birds of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Fondo Educativo Interamericano, San Juan, Puerto Rico. 255 pp.
Robert, M., R. McNeil, and A. Leduc. 1989. Conditions and significance of night feeding in shorebirds and other water birds in a tropical lagoon. Auk 106:94-101.
Stiles, F. G. and A. F. Skutch. 1989. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, USA. 511 pp.
Terres, J. K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
Wilds, C. 1982. Separating the yellowlegs. Birding 14:172-178.

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for definitions of the data fields used in this summary report.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 1994. Species Summary: Tringa melanoleuca. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: (accessed Feb 6, 2023).