Image: Joseph Kennedy, 7 September 2008 [larger view]. [voice: mp3: Gough, G.A., Sauer, J.R., Iliff, M. Patuxent Bird Identification Infocenter. 1998. Version 97.1. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/750s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.
Read and learn from a detailed ID diagnosis below ..
Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Well, a shorebird with yellow legs. Could it be? Indeed it is. The overall gray plumage, “intelligent” face with large eye, and long legs make this unmistakably a yellowlegs. The other tallish yellow-legged sandpipers are quite different in shape and structure: Stilt Sandpiper is short-necked and large-headed with a drooping bill, Wilson’s Phalarope pudgy and ridiculously small-headed.
Most shorebirders will have gone straight, so to speak, to the bill of the quiz bird, which is, in this view at least, straight, pale-based, and clearly longer than the head is wide. This is indeed a Greater Yellowlegs, as those well-known bill characters suggest.
But indulge me in an experiment. Cover up the head and bill of this bird on your screen–and most even somewhat experienced birders will still get it right! How come? There’s nothing in the photo for scale, so we can’t see the superior size of Greater Yellowlegs. But we can see something just as helpful. Note that this bird has a clear “Adam’s apple” lump in its throat, and that the thigh muscles bulge out from the flank; the breast is broad and substantial. The Shorebird Guide — the only book a birder really needs — describes the body of Greater Yellowlegs as “sculpted,” unlike the wimpy elegance of a Lesser. Bird identification is all about developing a mental library of such images, and constructing a lexicon to describe them.
Review all mystery birds to date.