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Sandpiper/yellowlegs confusion - S Florida (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
So the wetlands were low with the mud exposed, which drew in lots of small shore waders. I'm not as familiar with these, so having a hard time even looking them up trying to distinguish between the various sandpipers and yellowlegs. I think I've got it down to either lesser yellowlegs, solitary sandpipers, or least sandpipers...I don't think any of these looked large enough for greater yellowlegs, and didn't seem to quite match for spotted sandpiper. All help appreciated:

1. Small bird - due to size I assumed least sandpiper on scene, but the size may have been deceiving because of the other bird close by which looked quite larger:

2. This bird was nearly double the size of the first one...I thought maybe solitary sandpiper, but someone else on scene was saying lesser yellowlegs:

3. Maybe the same as #1:
I’m thinking Lesser Yellowlegs Zackie,


That would be for #2 - the larger one, I assume. Do you think the smaller ones in 1 and 3 would be solitary sandpipers or least sandpipers - as I said, they looked quite small, but maybe because they were standing right next to the yellowlegs.
Could you (always, for any ID) give the date, please? Thanks. It's useful here judging the state of moult into breeding plumage, which differs between species.
Species eliminated:
  • Greater yellowlegs: bill substantially longer and thicker and usually slightly upturned.
  • Least sandpiper: bill much shorter and different shape, legs markedly shorter (see your filed guide for details).
2. Lesser yellowlegs: bill rather fine and delicate, upperparts and barred flanks are partly breeding plumage (which is unlike any plumage of solitary sandpiper), primaries markedly longer than tail.
1, 3. Solitary sandpiper: bill thicker than lesser yellowlegs, obvious pale eye-ring, no supercilium behind eye, primaries only slightly longer than tail.

Judging the size of a bird without one of known species alongside it is notoriously unreliable. It's conventional to judge birds' sizes by overall length (not by bulk or weight as these are either impossible to quantify or highly variable), and on that measure lesser yellowlegs is a bit bigger than solitary sandpiper but nowhere near being 'nearly double the size'.
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Thank you all. I was suspecting that I was misidentifying the least sandpiper - thinking exactly that it looked smaller than it was because it was in the same patch of mud as the two yellowlegs. I know I've seen least sandpipers before, and they are really tiny - but most of the time I've seen one, it was by itself. Having the much larger species right next to it made these solitary sandpipers look smaller.

It may not have been quite double the size - maybe 60% bigger. These were all shot yesterday, Saturday 4/6/2024.

Solitary sandpiper and lesser yellowlegs sounds spot on.

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