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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.

Range map information


Lesser Yellowlegs breed in muskeg and open forests in the boreal ecozone. They typically lay 4 eggs in a slight depression in the ground in dense vegetation near open water. Lesser Yellowlegs are very defensive of their nest site and will approach intruders from great distances in order to distract them.  Their nests are notoriously difficult to find as a result.

Approximately 80% of the breeding population occurs in Canada’s boreal ecozone. Surveys suggest that populations of Lesser Yellowlegs have declined by about 22% in Canada over a ten year period (2009-2019). 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 loss of wetland breeding habitat. In other parts of the range outside the NWT, sport and subsistence hunting are a concern during migration and on the wintering grounds.

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