Birds of Cape Ann: Greater Yellowlegs and the Boreal Forest

Lesser Yellowlegs Massachusetts © KIm Smith 2014.

What a treat to happen upon this pair of yellow-legged shorebirds feasting on tiny invertebrates in the mudflats at Henry’s Pond. 

Lesser Yellowlegs Pair Massachusetts © KIm Smith 2014

The yellowlegs were foraging companionably alongside the Mallards, American Black Ducks, plovers, and Kildeers. I returned the following dawn and they had already departed for parts warmer. Perhaps we’ll see them again during their spring migration as they journey north to breed in the boreal bog forests of Canada and Alaska.

Lesser Yellowlegs Massachusetts  © KIm Smith 2014 -.Lesser Yellowlegs Preening

Here on Cape Ann, we are fortunate to catch fleeting glimpses of species such as yellowlegs during the the great annual fall migration. The map below shows the boreal forest biome (biome is another word for ecosystem), which lies to the south of the tundra and the north of deciduous forests and grasslands. The ground in the boreal forest is damp and boggy because of snowmelt and little evaporation due to cooler summer temperatures. The moist ground and long day length at northerly latitudes during the summer makes for explosive plant growth–Think Bird Food!–not only in the wealth of plants, but myriad insects attracted!

taiga_500Boreal Forests

I believe the pair to be Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes). I am by no means a bird expert and imagine they could also possibly be Greater Yellowlegs. If any of our wonderful expert bird lovers would like to weigh in on this, I would be grateful. Songbirds and shorebirds that I have filmed on Cape Ann are featured in my Monarch film and I am in the process of writing the script. I want to insure that all the bird identifications are 100 percent accurate.

Addendum: Many, many thanks to Kate and Patricia (see comments) for identifying the pair as Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca)!!

Map courtesy google image search.

About Kim Smith

Currently creating documentary films about the Monarch Butterfly, Black Swallowtail Butterfly, and Gloucester's Feast of St. Joseph. Landscape designer for the Gloucester Harbor Walk Gardens. Designer, lecturer, author, illustrator, photographer. Visit my blog for more information about my landscape and interior design firm- Good Morning Gloucester daily contributor. Author/illustrator "Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! Notes from a Gloucester Garden"
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22 Responses to Birds of Cape Ann: Greater Yellowlegs and the Boreal Forest

  1. Kate says:

    I believe these are Greater Yellowlegs. Referencing Sibley’s bird book, the bill is longer than the head and slightly upturned.

  2. schooner39 says:

    Beautiful photographs! Kim, it’s a real treat to see your work. These are very interesting travelers that most of us never get to see.

    • Kim Smith says:

      Thanks so much Al. I have some great video footage too. When I’m not so wrapped up in organizing larger film projects, I hope to make some mini short films about all the beautiful birds I have seen these past few months. Never enough hours in the day. Great to hear from you and hi to Phyllis!

  3. Nice ~ nice and nice! Enjoy the photos and information at locations I know ~ very nice ~

  4. Bob says:

    Great pics of some wonderful birds. Keep ‘em coming!

  5. Dave Moore says:

    Wish I knew more to help you here, but the pictures are quite nice and I bet they can scramble quick across the water…:Point’s good for spearing their food -)

  6. E.J. says:

    Great shots. Did you know that a group of yellowlegs is called an “incontinence” of yellowlegs?
    I would just love to know why.

  7. Hi Kim, Beautiful shots! These are Greater Yellowlegs. Hard to tell from Lesser Yellowlegs besides being larger, but they do have knobbier “knees,” a slightly curved bill, and a three-note call vs. the one- or two-note call of the Lesser. These photos are by no means boring! I so admire you for getting up at dawn to take them, and show the rest of us these beautiful birds that we are missing by lazing in bed!

    • Kim Smith says:

      Thank you Patricia for your very supportive words and thank you so much for the id. So appreciative, and of the knobby knee and vocalization field notes! Today I am looking at the film footage, maybe that was captured–hopefully!

  8. Debra Campbell says:

    As always, excellent shots, love the reflection on the water. Thanks for sharing

  9. Love those yellow legs. Thanks for all the information about our natural habitat, Kim. It’s a real treat to learn more about these creatures and seeing them ‘in person’ makes me smile. Please let us know if you spot any Snowy Owls….I am looking all over for them but have yet to see one!

  10. Monique Auger says:

    You are very talented. Always interesting to admire!

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