Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Willets and Yellowlegs (WBW)

1. yellowlegs-kab Greater yellowlegs (center) and Lesser yellowlegs (left and right)

Greater and Lesser yellowlegs are a variety of sandpiper found coast to coast in the United States. The Greater yellowlegs is taller, meatier, and has a longer bill that can sometimes be slightly upturned. The lesser’s bill is shorter and you can see the difference in this photo. However, Greater and Lesser can be very difficult to tell apart unless they are seen together for comparison, so many people just call them, “Yellowlegs.” I photographed these birds on my recent visit to South Beach in Chatham, Ma. You can read about all my adventures here by clicking on the “Cape Cod” label below, or just scrolling down.

2. willets-kab Eastern and Western Willets 9-13-11 Cape Cod, MA

Who knew that willets come in an eastern and western subspecies? I did not, until birding with Matt Malin and Jeff and Dawn Fine on South Beach.  Apparently these subspecies are “geographically separate” during the breeding season, but during migration they are found together. The Western variety is taller with a longer neck and bill. While the western willet winters along the southern coast, the eastern variety does not winter in North America.

3. willets-kab Even in flight you can see the longer bill and body of the western willet.

4. wings-kab Willet Wings 

If the willet appears drab standing on the shore

gray bird, gray bill, gray legs,

its beauty is revealed in flight

when you see Willet Wings!

~Kathie Adams Brown (9-27-11)


Go Visit!


  1. I learn so much birding with you.

  2. THERE they are!! It's fun to see them side by side. They overlap for a few days up here, but generally when the willets leave, the yellowlegs move in. I heard one just a couple of days ago, must be a lagger!!

  3. Cool! I had heard about the Willet subspecies but have never read about them or seen them displayed as you have. Very nice!

  4. Spectacular photos, Kathie, particularly the second flying willets shots. Very informative post.

  5. I so admire what you have captured here. Birds are tough subjects, but your images are wonderful.

  6. Great shot of the shorebirds, Kathie! And your poem is lovely. Have a great day and happy birding.

  7. wonderful captures Kathie, can't wait to see some this weekend :)


  8. Hi Kathie

    LOvely shots of the Willets in flight. Just stunning.


  9. Great captures!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  10. Yellowlegs are a very rare migrant down here in Australia and I don't think Willets get down here at all. Wish I could see both species!

  11. Beautiful birds to see I love watching the waders.
    Lovely flight shots...

  12. Katie, Super captures of this dear bird.:)

  13. Awesome in flights! Dang Kathie, this is a brilliant post. I really have a tough time differentiating between the greater and lesser yellow legs so I generally flip a coin and let it go. I totally agree, these sandpiper like birds transform themselves when they take to wing. Your beautiful photos do this wonderful bird justice! Bravo!

  14. Your posts are always so informative Kathie. A nice set of waterbirds.

  15. Wonderful shots of these lovely birds!

  16. Hello, Kathie! It's great to see your gorgeous photographs again! Absolutely breathtaking. It's no wonder your computer is full. You take so many great shots, it's a shame to toss any out.

    Sorry about the (temporary) computer woes. But yay for getting a new one soon!

    Happy Autumn!!!


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.