Greater Yellowlegs

The Greater Yellowlegs is a tall bird, measuring 14 inches in height. The bird is easily recognized by its upturned beak and bright yellow legs. The body color is mostly brown with gray streaks on the stomach and chest area. Greater Yellowlegs can be spotted living along coastal areas. Greater Yellowlegs have the ability to rest in the water while standing on one leg. The female Greater Yellowlegs usually builds the nest. They lay between 3 and 4 eggs into the nest and the male and female have the job of keeping the eggs warm. Females give birth once a year. For food, Greater Yellowlegs rely on small fish and insects. The bird can be spotted running and swinging its' bill from side to side in the water in pursuit of its prey. The most common months to see large amounts of Greater Yellowlegs along the Outer Banks region are July through December and March to May.

Lesser Yellowlegs

The Lesser Yellowlegs are a slightly smaller version of the Greater Yellowlegs. The Lesser Yellowlegs stand 101/2 inches tall. The Lesser Yellowlegs are gray in color with a pronounced white tail color and yellow legs. This species likes to live in marshy ponds and lakes. When in breeding season, the female Lesser Yellowlegs will lay 4 eggs in the nest that is built into the ground near the water. For food, the Lesser Yellowlegs eat small fish and insects. The Lesser Yellowlegs can be found around the Outer Banks region during the months of June through September.

Solitary Sandpiper

The Solitary Sandpiper stands 81/2 inches tall. It is a darkly colored bird with olive green legs. A Solitary Sandpiper is easy to spot because of a noticeable ring around the eyes. You can see Solitary Sandpipers living in marshy areas. They are especially plentiful in areas where cattle graze. Unlike many shorebirds, the Solitary Sandpiper lives in nests abandoned by other birds. The Solitary Sandpiper gets its name from the fact when it migrates, it is usually by itself rather than traveling in groups. The female Solitary Sandpiper lays 4 eggs in the nest. For food, the Solitary Sandpiper eats fish and insects. The Solitary Sandpiper is not found in North Carolina.


The Willet stands 15 inches tall. The Willet has 2 color patterns depending on the season. When in breeding season, the Willet is brown in color. When not breeding, it is gray. The Willet is made noticeable by the black and white pattern under the wing while in flight. The black and white patch is used to attract the female willet. The female Willet lays 3 to 5 eggs in a nest built on the ground. Both sexes take turns warming the eggs. For food, Willets eat insects. The Willet lives along the Outer Banks all year round.

Spotted Sandpiper

The Spotted Sandpiper is one of the smaller sandpipers, standing only 8 inches tall. It is also one of the more commonly seen members of the sandpiper family. The Spotted Sandpiper is an olive brown color with a white chest with black spots. The Spotted Sandpiper has the ability to fly straight up out of the water and is one of the few shorebirds that will dive into the water to escape from predators. The female lays eggs in a nest built on the ground. They lay 3 to 4 eggs in the nest, and only the male Spotted Sandpiper will keep the eggs warm. Females usually mate with more than one male during the breeding season, and will lay eggs in up to 5 different nests. For food, Spotted Sandpipers feed on aquatic insects. Spotted Sandpipers are commonly spotted in the Outer Banks July through September.

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Terms: The Birds of the Outer Banks: Sandpipers

The Birds of the Outer Banks;Sandpipers

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