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Lesser Yellowlegs

Tringa flavipes

Length: 10.25 inches Wingspan: 19 - 22 inches Seasonality: Migrant
ID Keys: Compare to Greater Yellowlegs, with smaller size, shorter bill, mellower voice

Lesser Yellowlegs - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs are one of the most common shorebirds that migrate through the state. They are commonly seen in flooded fields, shorelines, and mudflats as they migrate through South Dakota, in both the spring and fall.  Lesser Yellowlegs are one of the two "Yellowlegs" species migrating through the state, the other being the Greater Yellowlegs. The two are very similar in overall appearance and structure, but the Lesser Yellowlegs is considerably smaller and has other minor identification features (see notes below).


Flooded meadows, mud flats, shallow ponds, and shorelines during migration.  On its summer breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska, it breeds in clearings in the boreal forest, often near water, but not always.


Insects, small fish, and crustaceans.  Eats many aquatic insects, which make up the majority of it's summer diet.


Forages in very shallow water.  It usually grabs food items right at or right below the surface, rarely probing deeper into mud or lake bottom.  They can sometimes be seen walking along through shallow water, bill tip barely submerged, swinging their head and bill back and forth and grabbing prey items they come into contact with.


Non-breeder in South Dakota.  In breeding range, the nest of a Lesser Yellowlegs is a shallow depression on the ground, sparsely lined with bits of vegetation, and often in a protected area like near a clump of vegetation or a stump.  The female usually lays 3 or 4 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  The young leave the nest soon after hatching and feed themselves, but both parents help tend to them and protect them.  The young fledge after about 3 weeks.


Harsh short tew-tew or tew.  Alarm call is sharp kip. Also makes musical pill-e-wee.

1Click here to hear the call of a Lesser Yellowlegs, recorded in Brevard County, Florida.

2Click here to hear the multi-note song of a Lesser Yellowlegs, recorded near Fairbanks, Alaska


Summers in Canada and Alaska.  Winters on U.S. coasts, the extreme southern U.S., and points south.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Lesser Yellowlegs sightings

Similar Species:

Greater Yellowlegs.  See Comparison Chart.

Conservation Status:

Generally stable throughout its range, Lesser Yellowlegs are common in some areas and are found over a wide geographic area.  The IUCN lists the Lesser Yellowlegs as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Lesser Yellowlegs

2) WhatBird - Lesser  Yellowlegs

3) Audubon Guide - Lesser Yellowlegs

Photo Information:

April 22nd, 2012 -- Western Minnehaha County -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Lesser Yellowlegs photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Paul Marvin, XC451590. Accessible at


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Lesser Yellowlegs - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant throughout the state.  Accidental in winter.

Additional Lesser Yellowlegs Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Lesser Yellowlegs 2 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 3 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 4 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 5 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 6 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 7 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 8 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 9 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 10 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 11 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 12 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 13 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 14 - Tringa flavipesLesser Yellowlegs 1 - Tringa flavipes