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Connecticut USA Greater or Lesser yellowlegs?

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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 01:09   #1
lvn600
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Connecticut USA Greater or Lesser yellowlegs?

I still have a hard time distinguishing Greater Yellowlegs from Lesser Yellowlegs.-I saw several Greater Yellowlegs in the spring and it was easy for me to tell-They looked chunky ,had big bills and were aggressively chasing after food.-The bird in this photo looks smaller bodied and less chunky than what I saw in spring. The bill still looks longer than the head to me-but not much longer. -Which is it-greater or lesser?-thanks
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 01:24   #2
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Off the top of my head, I would say a non-breeding adult Greater, the bill appearing a little short in the photo because angled slightly away from the camera. But, other's mileage may differ. . ..
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 01:36   #3
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Hi Larry,

My first impression is Greater also.

Best,
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 01:44   #4
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Me too. Greater.

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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 01:46   #5
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Thanks-Can the body of a Greater Yellowlegs appear heavier at certain times of the year? The bill length seems to make sense for greater and this bird was moving around a lot which is supposed to be a trait of a Greater but why would the body shape seem so much leaner now than when I saw them back in March/April?
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 01:51   #6
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I believe this is a Greater Yellowlegs as well, bill looks longer to me. As for weight: pre-migration/migrating/post-migration/ and post-breeding or juvenile birds certainly have a lot to do with weight.
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 01:57   #7
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Thanks-So the weight can vary a lot on these birds then-As long as I know that, I'll focus more on bill length and feeding behavior versus body size.
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 09:27   #8
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Never one to enjoy disagreeing, this is a Lesser Yellowlegs to me for the following reasons;

1) Let's start by correctly aging this bird. Taken in early August, the bird is in good plumage condition (note the crisp edging to the exposed primaries and the condition of the coverts). As Yellowlegs moult on their wintering grounds, a bird in this plumage condition at this time of year is a juvenile; the long, sunny days of the nesting season have not taken their toll on this bird. So, to make life easy, we only need consider juv Lesser and Greaters.

2) Despite the angle, the bills is too short, thin and straight, lacking the heavy upturned bill of a Greater. The bill is shorter than the exposed tibia, a good indicator for Lesser

3) The primary projection (exposed primaries beyond the tertials) is far too long for Greaterlegs, which looks "squashed" at the rear

4) The covert and especially scapular pattern is right for juv Lesserlegs, better than for greaterlegs. The neck is also, for me, too lightly streaked for Greaterlegs, and this bird seems to lack the almost pectoral band shown by many juv Greaterlegs.

5) The jizz is perfect for the small, slight Lesser Yellowlegs. As you orginally suggested lvn600, this bird is too delicate for a Greater.

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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 09:54   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobTag View Post
Never one to enjoy disagreeing, this is a Lesser Yellowlegs to me for the following reasons;

1) Let's start by correctly aging this bird. Taken in early August, the bird is in good plumage condition (note the crisp edging to the exposed primaries and the condition of the coverts). As Yellowlegs moult on their wintering grounds, a bird in this plumage condition at this time of year is a juvenile; the long, sunny days of the nesting season have not taken their toll on this bird. So, to make life easy, we only need consider juv Lesser and Greaters.

2) Despite the angle, the bills is too short, thin and straight, lacking the heavy upturned bill of a Greater. The bill is shorter than the exposed tibia, a good indicator for Lesser

3) The primary projection (exposed primaries beyond the tertials) is far too long for Greaterlegs, which looks "squashed" at the rear

4) The covert and especially scapular pattern is right for juv Lesserlegs, better than for greaterlegs. The neck is also, for me, too lightly streaked for Greaterlegs, and this bird seems to lack the almost pectoral band shown by many juv Greaterlegs.

5) The jizz is perfect for the small, slight Lesser Yellowlegs. As you orginally suggested lvn600, this bird is too delicate for a Greater.

BobTag.
I think juvenile Lesserlegs as well for reasons 2 and 5 of BobTag. (not saying that 3 and 4 are wrong, just that I wasn't aware of these as differences)
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 10:43   #10
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My second impression, considering Bob's admirably thorough analysis, is that it could be a lesser; these isolated shots are often ambiguous. But Greater Yellowlegs does not always have an upturned bill, so a straight bill is not really indicative of anything. Also, the bird appears to be moving, and the bill is blurred making it look thinner than it really is, so it is hard to get a good feel for it. I do not suppose you have any other shots Larry, or cropped out some birds that could be used for comparison purposes? Otherwise, it is difficult (for mere mortals at least) to be sure.

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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 10:56   #11
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I fully agree with Bob, juvenile Lesser. The bill lenght and shape is not always easy to see well in some images and the longer than head in Greater, shorter in Lesser is not always apparant. However the structure of this bird looks very good for Lesser.

http://www.birdforum.tv/action/video...ags=Yellowlegs

http://www.roysephotos.com/GreaterYellowlegs.html

http://www.roysephotos.com/LesserYellowlegs.html

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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 11:03   #12
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Looks very much like a Lesser to me.
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 11:05   #13
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First impression is Lesser. Would echo the request for more photos though...
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 11:14   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Moore View Post
My second impression, considering Bob's admirably thorough analysis, is that it could be a lesser; these isolated shots are often ambiguous. But Greater Yellowlegs does not always have an upturned bill, so a straight bill is not really indicative of anything. Also, the bird appears to be moving, and the bill is blurred making it look thinner than it really is, so it is hard to get a good feel for it. I do not suppose you have any other shots Larry, or cropped out some birds that could be used for comparison purposes? Otherwise, it is difficult (for mere mortals at least) to be sure.

Best,
Jim
Morning Jim! Great to hear from you, defending your ambiguous postmodern corner again.

Still, there's nothing ambiguous about this bird, though, and I know many "mere mortals" who understand what a useful tool primary projection is in bird identification. There is some description of Primary Projection in this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_feather but is better discussed in books; I believe it is covered in Sibley's Birding Basics. Hope this is helpful.

More photos would be fun, but are not needed to be sure; it's 100% a Lesser Yellowlegs
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 13:38   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobTag View Post

More photos would be fun, but are not needed to be sure; it's 100% a Lesser Yellowlegs
Agreed
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 14:09   #16
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When I first read the initial responses, I thought I was wrong. My take is a lesser also. I have shots of both (I believe).
Lesser
Greater
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 14:12   #17
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I wouldn't put my money on tertial/scapular pattern or primary projection or bill shape/size after watching carefully Jan's good links, but certainly would put it on Bob's #5. The bird is simply too slim/small bodied to be a Greater.
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 14:17   #18
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As a very, very rough guide I always think that if the bird looks more Wood Sand-ish its a Lesser, more Greenshank-ish, it's a Greater. Even before opening the thumbnail it looked like a Lesser.
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 14:25   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by birdboybowley View Post
As a very, very rough guide I always think that if the bird looks more Wood Sand-ish its a Lesser, more Greenshank-ish, it's a Greater. Even before opening the thumbnail it looked like a Lesser.
Though that's not too helpful for the original poster & those who replied that it is a Greater, who are all American!

You're absolutely right, though; for me Greaterlegs is to Lesserlegs what
Greenshank is to Redshank

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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 15:34   #20
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I use the if you don't know rule: if you don't know for sure, call it lesser. Sort of like downy and hairy woodpeckers. If in doubt, it is a downy.
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Old Saturday 9th August 2008, 15:42   #21
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Thanks for all the replies. I'm glad that it is not a Greater Yellowlegs. I say that because I want to get to the point where I am confident about separating the two. If it turned out to be a greater, I would be more confused.-I can recall how aggressively the greaters moved and stalked and lunged for their food-The lesser was much more casual in its feeding. They still moved around but in a more casual manner. Now that I went back to find the picture of the greater which I took earlier in the spring, I can see a big difference between the two.-Here are comparison photos.

The one on the left clearly seems heavier bodied and longer billed indicating a Greater Yellowlegs. The one on the right does seem leaner and shorter billed than the one on the right -so Lesser Yellowlegs would make sense to me.-It seems that when I see a Greater Yellowlegs I am pretty certain of it.-When I see a lesser is when the confusion seems to set in.-


It reminds me of when I first started birding and wasn't sure of the difference between a Downy and a Hairy Woodpecker.-When I saw a downy, I might wonder if it was a hairy but when I actually saw a Hairy WP-it seemed so obvious.

edit-Tero-That was funny that you came up with the example of the Downy versus Hairy just before I had a chance to post it myself!
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Old Sunday 10th August 2008, 15:09   #22
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I wouldn't put my money on tertial/scapular pattern or primary projection or bill shape/size after watching carefully Jan's good links, but certainly would put it on Bob's #5. The bird is simply too slim/small bodied to be a Greater.
I would agree with that. I was reporting my first impression just before retiring, and failed to focus on that aspect (as well as the doubts Larry expressed in his original post). Jan's links do show excellent examples of just how much variation there is within each species in terms of bill length and other factors. Some greaters are obviously so, as well as some lessers, but individual variation does create more confusing birds, especially when overall size cannot be judged in photographs. But they also show that Greater can look to have a fairly delicate build in some postures.

I just got the Collins Guide to the birds of Europe. I noticed that it differs with Sibleys and other North American guides in some respects. It suggests that the Greater can be differentiated based upon the stouter and more upturned bill. Sibley on the other hand simply notes that the greater's bill "usually appears slightly upturned". I agree with Sibley; I do not think a straight bill is a reliable indicator -- and I think that shows in the photographs Jan linked to. I also do not think the greater's bill reliably appears more stout on a relative basis (though it is obviously on an absolute basis) than Lesser; so if you cannot judge size, I do not think that will be much help. Neither Collins nor Sibley (nor my dedicated shorebird guide by O'Brien, et al.) make any reference to tertial/scapular pattern or primary projection in distinguishing the species.

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Old Sunday 10th August 2008, 15:49   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J. Moore View Post
I would agree with that. I was reporting my first impression just before retiring, and failed to focus on that aspect (as well as the doubts Larry expressed in his original post). Jan's links do show excellent examples of just how much variation there is within each species in terms of bill length and other factors. Some greaters are obviously so, as well as some lessers, but individual variation does create more confusing birds, especially when overall size cannot be judged in photographs. But they also show that Greater can look to have a fairly delicate build in some postures.

I just got the Collins Guide to the birds of Europe. I noticed that it differs with Sibleys and other North American guides in some respects. It suggests that the Greater can be differentiated based upon the stouter and more upturned bill. Sibley on the other hand simply notes that the greater's bill "usually appears slightly upturned". I agree with Sibley; I do not think a straight bill is a reliable indicator -- and I think that shows in the photographs Jan linked to. I also do not think the greater's bill reliably appears more stout on a relative basis (though it is obviously on an absolute basis) than Lesser; so if you cannot judge size, I do not think that will be much help. Neither Collins nor Sibley (nor my dedicated shorebird guide by O'Brien, et al.) make any reference to tertial/scapular pattern or primary projection in distinguishing the species.

Best,
Jim
I agree with Jim,s reflections on the bill size. It´s however interesting to note how easy everything gets when the two are seen together, when you can practically ignore plumage features and consentrate on bill shape/size and JIZZ. Regardless of what´s said in the beginng of this note, bill size and shape are rather constant in these two, but as noted some Lesser shows longer bills than avarage while some Greaters almost lack any sign of an upturned bill, as well as some looking surprisingly thin at the bill base.

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Old Sunday 10th August 2008, 16:43   #24
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Hi all,

It's interesting to see that the discussion has turned to reflect on some individual points I made earlier. Eduardo, a case for using primary projection and length of tail/wings was made in a Birding World article, last year if I recall following a vagrant Greater Yellowlegs in Lincs, UK.

I agree with a lot of what has been written; there is overlap in some features between the species, such as bill shape. However, this does not take into account the whole bird; jizz rather than the New Approach. On this I agree with Jan; they are rather distinctive species.

Take this bird, and add up the 'sum of the parts'; it has the bill of a Lesser AND the primary projection/wing&tail length of a Lesser AND the breast streaking/pattern of a Lesser AND the jizz/strucutre of a Lesser.

Whilst each point could be considered variable or even ambiguous, taken together they show a distincitve Lesser Yellowlegs.

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Old Sunday 10th August 2008, 19:07   #25
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a case for using primary projection and length of tail/wings was made in a Birding World article, last year if I recall following a vagrant Greater Yellowlegs in Lincs, UK.
Thanks for the info Bob. If anyone knows of a detailed discussion of these features available on the Internet, I would be interested.

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