Greater Yellowlegs
(Tringa melanoleuca)


Picture of bird
© Jukka Jantunen (
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Greater Yellowlegs breeds in wetland habitats across boreal and subarctic North America. Although it is common and widespread, it breeds and migrates in low densities and is difficult to monitor. Nevertheless, three different surveys contribute information to the assessment of this species, and indicate that the species is more abundant in Canada now than it was in the early 1970s. With over 80% of the global breeding population, Canada’s responsibility for the species is very high. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaModerate IncreaseHighAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada100,000 - 500,000 adults (includes birds breeding and migrating within Canada)

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Long-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population
CanadaVery High

Conservation and management

Historically, populations of Greater Yellowlegs were depressed by hunting (Stone 1937). Although the species is now protected from sport hunting in North America, sport and subsistence hunting elsewhere in the Americas continues (Hutt 1991). Greater Yellowlegs are potentially susceptible to loss of wetlands in the non-breeding range, but will readily use flooded agricultural lands in place of natural wetlands (Elphick and Oring 1998). Climate change is expected to have a negative effect on boreal shorebird breeding habitat through increased fire frequency and intensity, and loss of wetland habitat to forest drying - especially in the southern boreal (Stewart et al. 1998, Soja et al. 2006). Because the northern limit of the boreal forest is expected to advance much more slowly than the encroaching deciduous forests and grasslands from the south, reduction in the overall size of the boreal forest and thus available breeding habitat is possible (Stewart et al. 1998, Soja et al. 2006). However, because this species’ population appears to be increasing in Canada, these threats are not currently considered serious conservation concerns.


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Boreal Softwood ShieldBoreal Softwood Shield, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Boreal Taiga PlainsBoreal Taiga Plains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainsTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainsTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains, sub-region and priority type: Prairie and Northern -- Conservation
Taiga Shield and Hudson PlainsTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other