The Lesser Yellowlegs and its cousin the Greater Yellowlegs look quite similar, but there are a few easy ways to tell them apart, the Lesser Yellowlegs is only about half the weight of his cousin. The bill of the Greater Yellowlegs will turn gray around the base during the non-breeding season while the Lesser Yellowlegs bill stays black year-round. The bill on the lesser is not much longer than the width of his head while the greater has a bill that is quite long. When in flight, the Lesser Yellowlegs have longer legs than the Greater Yellowlegs, if the feet reach past the tail in flight, it’s a Lesser Yellowlegs. Lesser Yellowlegs tend to join up into much larger flocks than the Greaters do.
These birds like to breed in boreal forests in the far north. They can be seen in big clearings or burned-out areas near ponds and will nest as far north as the beginning of the open tundra. In the winter they will gather in small groups along the Pacific Northwest coast to feed on various small lifeforms. During the breeding season, they will mostly feed on insects, for the rest of the year, they eat small fish and crustaceans.
I am always enthralled when I run into these beautiful waders, they are such a joy to watch as they walk along the water’s edge, gathering small fish and crustaceans along with a variety of insects.