Greater Yellowlegs

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I know that it seems incongruous to encounter shore birds in our desert but we see them here, and relatively frequently. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, southern Arizona is only a bit more than three hundred miles from the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), a substantial inlet of the Pacific Ocean, and second, we sit under a great migratory highway for birds. Numerous species of birds pass through our area during the spring and autumn migrations and these include shore birds.

Today I’m featuring a couple of images of a shore bird that appears occasionally in southern Arizona during the winter. This is the Greater Yellowlegs, a very graceful member of the sandpiper family.

These birds spend their winters in the extreme southern part of the United States, our Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and down into Mexico. They breed in Canada and parts of Alaska. Their preferred habitat is shallow water and mudflats. I photographed this individual yesterday morning at the edge of an irrigation pond in southern Arizona’s farmlands.

It has a unique appearance with its long, yellow legs, its long neck and round head, and its slightly upward curving beak. There is another species of Yellowlegs, the Lesser Yellowlegs, that is slightly smaller than the Greater Yellowlegs and with a shorter beak. That species is also reputed to show up in southern Arizona from time to time but I’ve never seen a representative.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISO 400, f5.6 @ 1/3200, -1/3 stop exposure compensation.

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