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The Lesser Yellowlegs is a medium-sized shorebird. Breeding birds have uniform gray to grayish brown upperparts with pale spotting. They have a dark bill, long slender neck, and distinctive bright, long yellow legs. Their distinctive “tu-tu” call can commonly be heard in boreal habitats during the breeding season.

Weight:  79.5 to 90.9 g (2.8 to 3.2 oz)  
Length:  23 to 27 cm (9.1 to 10.6 in)

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The Lesser Yellowlegs breeds across the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska. Approximately 80% of the breeding population occurs in Canada. 

Range map information


Lesser Yellowlegs typically breed in muskeg and open forests in the boreal ecozone. They nest in dense vegetation near open water. 

Lesser Yellowlegs are very defensive of their nest site and will approach intruders in order to draw attention away from their eggs and young. 

Estimates from breeding and migration surveys suggest that populations of Lesser Yellowlegs have declined by 70% since 1970, and that the rate of decline has been increasing in recent decades. Causes of the decline are not completely understood, but loss of wetland habitat and under-regulated harvest during migration and on the wintering grounds are of primary concern.

Potential threats in the Northwest Territories include breeding habitat degradation from threats like climate change and industrial development, and direct disturbance at nest sites from human activities such as resource exploration and development. 

Although not hunted in North America, Lesser Yellowlegs are a popular game bird to sport and subsistence harvesters in Central and South America, and the Caribbean. 

COSEWIC assessed Lesser Yellowlegs as Threatened in 2020.

Lesser Yellowlegs and their nests are protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.

Dehcho Gwich'in Inuvialuit North Slave / Tłı̨chǫ Sahtú South Slave