Tringas, The "Easy" waders!

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11 years 11 months ago #251 by Doug
Doug created the topic: Tringas, The "Easy" waders!
Here with is a short article hopefully aimed at simplyfying identification of Tringas.

The specific species I am going to focus on are:
Common Redshank
Spotted Redshank
Common Greenshank
Nordman's or Spotted Greenshank
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
(And a brief mention of Ruff, although not a member of this family).

This can be quite a tricky family so I will try and seperate it into a few key areas.

Wing Projection
Although not diagnostic in itself, this can help somewhat to narrow down what you might be looking at.
The key thing to bear in mind here is that due to feather wear, this wing projection is never fixed, although if you can see enough detail on the bird, other indicators will give you further guidelines.
Here is a summary:
Common Greenshank - Basically no wing projection. Folded wings roughly level with tail tip.
Nordman's Greenshank - Has some wing projection, probably 1 feather with second feather ending flush with tail.
Common Redshank - No wing projection. Folded wings and tail flush.
Spotted Redshank - No wing projection. If anything, tail projects slightly passed wing tips.
Lesser Yellowlegs - Slightly more wing projection than Nordman's Greenshank. About two and a half feather project.
Greater Yellowlegs - Most wing projection of the group. Almost three clear feathers.

Bill shape and structure[/b]
Here there are some key differences which are very helpful.
Common Greenshank - Bill heavy. Very noticably upturned. Bill colour may be two toned, but the transition between the two colours is gradual.
Nordman's Greenshank - Bill heavy. Not as upturned as Common Greenshank. Bill colour may be two toned and the transition is very clearly defined
Common Redshank - Bill straight. Very similar to Ruff, but noticably longer. Two toned reddish orange and black with a slightly gradual transition between red base and black tip. Note, juveniles can have an almost black bill with only a hint of colur at the base.
Spotted Redshank - Very long thin bill that droops at the tip. Red on the bill is generally confined to the basal third of the lower mandible only.
Lesser Yellowlegs - Straight, generally all black bill similar to wood sandpiper.
Greater Yellowlegs - Longest and heaviest bill of the group, can be slightly upturned and has a more marked difference between base and tip similar to Nordman's Greenshank.

Tail and flight pattern[/b]
Here there are some of the best differences.
Common Greenshank - White of rump extending very far up back, alost to the mantle. It is only the two greenshanks that have this pattern within the family. Just the toes project beyond the tail in flight.
Nordman's Greenshank - White of rump extending very far up back, alost to the mantle. It is only the two greenshanks that have this pattern within the family. Toes do not project beyond the tail in flight. Heavy webbing between toes is diagnostic in Tringas!
Common Redshank - The heavier brown barring creates an almost cigar-shaped white "blob" on the back. Almost completely white secondaries creates a very large obvious white trailing edge to the wings. Feet project beyond tail in flight.
Spotted Redshank - The heavier brown barring creates an almost cigar-shaped white "blob" on the back. Lacks the large white panels in the wings of Common Redshank. Feet project beyond tail in flight.
Lesser Yellowlegs - White confined pretty much solely to the uppertail coverts giving it a "white-rumped" look. Both yellowlegs have fee t and part of legs projecting and have the most feet projection of the group.
Greater Yellowlegs - White confined pretty much solely to the uppertail coverts giving it a "white-rumped" look. Both yellowlegs have fee t and part of legs projecting and have the most feet projection of the group.

General feather markings and leg colour.[/b]
Here there are some of the differences.
Common Greenshank - Tends to have very little spotting and flecking in Southern hemisphere, but when some residual breeding plumage is till present, spotting is less consistent and not as pronounced as in the yellowlegs species. Leg greenish too yellowish.
Nordman's Greenshank - Has a very spotted look above and below in breeding plumage, otherwise is the plainest of all the Tringas. Has a much more pronounced steep forehead than Common Greenshank. Legs almost grey to yellowish. Has much shorter legs than Common Greenshank.
Common Redshank - Tends to have upperparts with the least spotting. Tends to be rather plain above. Legs reddish-orange, but juveniles can have yellowish legs, reminding one of a yellowlegs. Wing projection helps in these cases.
Spotted Redshank - Tends to be very grey with some fine spotting. Heavy black line through eye helps with ID. Any residual evidence of completely black underparts from breeding helps with ID. Legs reddish-orange, but juveniles can have yellowish legs, reminding one of a yellowlegs. Wing projection helps in these cases.
Lesser Yellowlegs - Tends to resemble Wood Sandpiper in look and spotting. Legs Yellow, but can be reddish when young, confusing with the Redshanks. Wing projection helps.
Greater Yellowlegs - Tends to resemble Breeding Common Greenshank in look and spotting. Legs Yellow, but can be reddish when young, confusing with the Redshanks. Wing projection helps.

Just a note on wing projection. This can vary on feather wear, so bear this in mind. If feathers are very worn, a short wing projetion can result in feathers lining up with tail. If you see a very worn bird, bear this in mind, but then to compensate, if a bird with no wing projection has very worn feathers, its wings would then probably not reach the tail tip, leaving a projecting tail.

To satisfactorily ID these, one should idealy get a combination of colours markings, wing projection, flight pattern, toe projection in flight and bill shape and colour. Learn to recognise these birds in a wide range of plumages.

Confusing species[/b]
Once you are more proficient with your waders, these confusing species become less of an issue but if you are not 100% comfortable with wader shapes and bill structures yet, the following species may offer some confusion for the following reasons:
Marsh Sandpiper: This bird can have similar colouring to Common Greenshank and its bill can also be slightly upturned, but over all the bird is alot smaller, the bill is not as heavy and the bill has a thinner more elongated look and its feeding action is much more energetic than Common Greenshank due to it being a smaller more nimble bird. The other reason for confusion with the two greenshank species is that the white rump also continues quite a way up the back.
Ruff: This species can cause confusion with Common Redshank, particularly with Ruff that have a rather reddish base to the bill and reddish legs. The main difference though is that Ruff has a heavily scalloped back compared to the plainer back of Common Redshank and also the bill is shorther on Ruff than on Common Redshank. See the Ruff vs Common Redshank ID guide in this section of the forum.
Terrek Sandpiper: This species can cause confusion with Common Greenshank, but has a very heavy bill that tends to be shorter even though it is very upturned as well and also has much shorter legs than any bird in this family. Also does not have the white up the back like Common or Spotted Greenshanks.

Visit
http://homepage2.nifty.com/stints/
For a nice range of pics.
Look at them, study them and compare to these notes and you should start to get the hang of it.

References.
Shorebirds, An Identification Guide by Peter Hayman, John Marchant and Tony Prater. HoughtonMifflin publishing ©1986

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