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Lesser Yellowlegs, Carlo Giovanella
Photo © Carlo Giovanella

Photo: Carlo Giovanella
Breeding evidence - Lesser Yellowlegs
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Lesser Yellowlegs
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Lesser Yellowlegs
Elevation plot

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Lesser Yellowlegs
Tringa flavipes
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
342 - 1473 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
15 66 76 44
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1987 - 2012 16.3 (3.15 - 32.7)Low
Canada1973 - 2012 -3.93 (-5.93 - -1.79)Medium

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.140.04  0.07  
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.140.03 0.04  0.06
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range This slim, elegant shorebird breeds only in North America, in boreal regions from western Alaska to James Bay (Tibbitts and Moskoff 2014). Northern British Columbia is on the southern edge of its breeding range, but it is a common migrant through the province. It winters from the Southern Coastal Plains of the United States through South America, with the highest concentrations in northern South America, especially Surinam.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat Lesser Yellowlegs nest north of 55°N in British Columbia, mostly in the Taiga and Boreal Plains, and northwestern Northern Boreal Mountains ecoprovinces. The Atlas distribution matches that shown by Campbell et al. (1990), but also reveals new evidence of nesting south of 55°N, on the Fraser and Chilcotin Plateaus. These southern sites represent an expansion of the species' known range, likely the result of increased sampling effort. Nesting distribution may be more widespread than indicated in the Northern Boreal Mountains Ecoprovince, because these relatively inaccessible highlands could not be fully sampled by the Atlas.

Even within areas of relative concentration, the Lesser Yellowlegs is an uncommon, low density breeder in British Columbia. The highest Probabilities of Observation generally match concentrations of confirmed and probable breeding records, except in the Taiga Plains Ecoprovince where Pobs values are higher than the breeding evidence suggests. The highest abundance is in the 1,250-1,500 m elevation range, somewhat higher than Campbell et al. (1990) reported (750-1,200 m), but atlassing also shows moderate relative abundance at mid-elevations (250-1,250 m), based on small sample sizes.

The Atlas data indicate a strong preference for nesting in higher elevation, boreal biogeoclimatic zones dominated by spruce (Picea) and pine (Pinus) species. Lesser Yellowlegs tend to nest near shallow water-bodies in semi-open coniferous woodlands including bogs, muskeg and meadows (Campbell et al. 1990; Tibbitts and Moskoff 2014). Nests tend to be made in drier parts of their nesting habitat but the birds feed and raise their chicks along the shores of ponds, lakes and wet marshes, taking aquatic and shoreline insects, crustaceans, worms, spiders and small fish (Tibbitts and Moskoff 2014).

Conservation and Recommendations Atlas data show the Lesser Yellowlegs as a more abundant and widespread breeder within British Columbia than previously indicated (Campbell et al. 1990). This might simply reflect increased sampling effort in the more northerly and higher mountainous areas. The species is considered to have a secure population globally and in Canada. Population monitoring data are sparse, but there have been significant population declines in some migratory stopovers in eastern North America and in some wintering areas (Andres et al. 2012; Tibbitts and Moskoff 2014). The greatest threats to the species are on its migration and wintering grounds: hunting in the Caribbean and South America and, to a lesser extent, high levels of organochlorines and selenium (Tibbitts and Moskoff 2014). Atlas data provide a valuable baseline for future monitoring of breeding numbers and distribution in British Columbia.

Alan E. Burger

Recommended citation: Burger, A.E. 2015. Lesser Yellowlegs in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [28 May 2024]

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