Birds – The Greenshank

The Greenshank (Totanus [or Glottis] nebularius) is a well-known bird of the Eastern Hemisphere, spending the summer in northern Europe and northern Asia, and wintering far to the south, even reaching Australia, and accidentally eastern North America. It is about fourteen inches long and may be known by the pure white rump and lower back and olive-green legs and feet, whence, of course, its common name. It is a rather shy, noisy bird, frequenting both the seashore and the inland waters, often in company with its close relative, the Redshank, and feeding on insects, worms, etc. It is often found far from water, and in such situations frequently makes its nest, a mere depression in the sand and lined with a few grass stems. The Redshank (T. calidris) of Europe and central Asia to eastern Siberia is of smaller size, being only eleven inches long, and has the legs and feet orange-red; the female is slightly larger than the male. It is also a shy, wary bird, congregating in large, noisy flocks in winter along the coasts, but during the nesting season it is often found in marshy places more inland. Distinguished by the larger size and barred in stead of white secondaries is the Spotted Redshank (T. fuscus) of northern Europe and Asia north to Kamchatka; its habits are similar to those of its relatives. Ranging over the whole of North America, but breeding only or mainly far north, is the Greater Yellow-legs (T. melanoleucus), a bird about fourteen inches long, and agreeing with it essentially in all save size is the Yellow-legs (T. flavipes), with a total length of less than eleven inches; in both the legs are yellow in life. They are found mainly along the coasts during the winter, but in summer frequent the inland waters. Another typical New World species is the Solitary Sandpiper (T. solitarius) of temperate North America in summer, whence it ranges to tropical America in general for the winter. It is a so-called Wood Sandpiper, being rather rarely found along the coasts, but keeping mainly about the lakes, ponds, and streams of the interior, often in the vicinity of human habitations. ” When surprised it utters a sharp, whistling note, raises its wings, and runs nimbly over the miry ground. If closely pursued, it retreats to the opposite side of the pond, arranges its feathers, and soon resumes its usual gentle manners.” Its nest and eggs remained long unknown, though from its close affinity with the Green Sandpiper, the habits of which are mentioned below, Mr. Ridgway and others have suggested that its nesting habits may also be similar, and such apparently proves to be the case, since Mr. Walter Raine has recently (1904) recorded the finding of three sets of four eggs each in northern Alberta. The first set was placed in an old nest of the Robin, at a height of fifteen feet, the second in the nest of a Bronzed Grackle and in a low tree, and the third in a Cedar Waxwing’s nest only five feet from the water by which the tree was surrounded : all were in or near wet swamps. According to Raine, the eggs are quite unlike those of any other American Sandpiper, being pale greenish white rather thickly spotted, especially at the larger end, with purple brown, vandyke brown, and purplish gray; the average size is 1.36 by .99 inch. Very like the last in appearance, but having the upper tail-coverts pure white instead of dusky barred with white, is the Green Sandpiper (T. ochropus) of northern Europe and Asia, which is chiefly remarkable on account of its peculiar nesting habits. Instead of building the usual rude nest on the ground, it places its four handsome eggs in the deserted nests of other birds, such as Thrushes, Blackbirds, and Jays, often at a considerable height from the ground, though usually not far from a pond or other body of fresh water.