Check out Those Yellow Legs!
We have had a lot of rain recently in South Florida, so the local freshwater wetlands that support shorebirds are too full for them to feed. However, on a recent marsh visit a Greater Yellowlegs enjoyed feeding in an area close to shore.
Its long bright yellow stilt-like legs dashed back and forth carrying its owner in pursuit of small fish.
Occasionally, the Greater Yellowlegs stirred the water with its beak. Once it stopped to take a drink.
The behavior that interested me most, however, was its continual wing and leg stretching. First, it would stretch the right side…
and then a few minutes later, the right side. The bird repeated this behavior several times.
I’m not an ornithologist or even a dedicated birder, so my knowledge is limited. Africa’s Black Herons, our own Reddish Egrets, and even storks practice canopy feeding where they stretch a wing over their head, purportedly to create a shady place where fish gather and can be easily seen before becoming lunch. Could what I observed be a variation on canopy feeding or do Greater Yellowlegs just enjoy a good str-r-etch? I rather suspect this behavior has a greater purpose. If anyone reading has a clue to this fascinating conduct or even an opinion, please inform me. It sure was compelling to watch.
Wingy Dingy update: I contacted “America’s First Family of Birding,”Don and Lillian Stokes of Stokes Birds at Home regarding all of this wing stretching. They said, “After seeing the photo of the Greater Yellowlegs (on this blog), we have seen that action many times. It really is just a stretching, maintenance behavior. They can do that alot.”
Thanks to the Stokes for their help in solving this mystery. When you get a chance, check out their website, their field guides, and DIY Birdwatching Workshop episodes. If you’re at all interested in birdwatching, this is the place to get started.