Greater Yellowlegs — not surprisingly — have bright yellow legs and feet. And why? While foraging through shallow water, a yellowlegs (like this one) can keep track of its legs by the color, which contrasts with the sometimes dark and irregular bottom. A Sanderling, on the other hand, has black legs and feet. Its black toes really stand out against the pale sand. And the brilliant orange legs of Ruddy Turnstones? They stand out like a neon light on the shore.
Mother Nature is good with the fine details!
Shorebirds Watch Their Feet
Written by Dennis Paulson
This is BirdNote!
[Greater Yellowlegs calls - LNS 126434 - 3-note call]
True to their name, Greater Yellowlegs are shorebirds with bright yellow legs and feet. Ever wonder why? Perhaps it's so they can see them better! Wading in shallow water to capture small fish and insects, a yellowlegs can keep track of its legs by their bright color contrasting with the sometimes dark and irregular bottom. Keeping track of toes allows quick movements without a misstep.
[Sanderling calls - LNS 41402 or 3065 from SAND-01]
A Sanderling, on the other hand, has black legs and feet. Running up the sandy beach in front of an advancing wave, it, too, is aware of every step, as those black toes stand out against the pale sand. It turns out that shorebirds that forage on dark substrates, such as mudflats, usually have pale legs, while those on paler substrates, such as sand beaches, have dark legs. Mother Nature is good with the fine details.
[Ruddy Turnstone calls - LNS 32572]
How about the brilliant orange legs of Ruddy Turnstones? Well, they forage just about anywhere on the shore, and those orange legs stand out like a neon light.
[Black-necked Stilt calls - LNS 135386]
Black-necked Stilts have bright pink legs and, like yellowlegs, they wade in water, where one bright color is probably as good as another.
See photos of all of these birds – and get a look at those legs – when you come to our website, BirdNote.org.
For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Greater Yellowlegs recorded by Thomas G. Sander. Sanderling recorded by Dolly Minis. Ruddy Turnstone recorded by Chandler S. Robbins. Black-necked Stilts recorded by Michael J. Andersen.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org August 2016/2020 Narrator: Michael Stein
ID# shorebird-04-2016-08-09 shorebird-04