Common greenshank

Common greenshank
Tringa nebularia
Photo by Rajiv Lather (Birding in India and South Asia)

Common name:

Order Charadriiformes
Family Scolopacidae

These birds breed from from Scotland and Scandinavia, eatwards along the tundra and taiga areas of Siberia all the way to Kamchatka. They migrate south to winter in western Europe, the Mediterranean region, along the the coasts of Africa down to South Africa, then into southern Asia, in the Middle East, across the Indian sub-continent, in the Sunda islands and in Australia.

Greenshanks are 30-34 cm long and have a wingspan of up to 70 cm. They weigh around 280 g.


This species breeds in boreal forest, in swampy forest clearings, woody moorland, open bogs and marshes, and in eutrophic lakes with margins of dead and decaying vegetation. During wintering and migration they are found in a variety of freshwater, marine and artificial wetlands, including swamps, open muddy or rocky shores of lakes and large rivers, sewage farms, saltworks, inundated rice-fields, ponds, reservoirs, flooded grasslands, saltmarshes, sandy or muddy coastal flats, mangroves, estuaries, lagoons and pools on tidal reefs or exposed coral, although it generally avoids open coastlines.

Greenshanks are carnivorous, eating insects and their larvae, crustaceans, annelids, molluscs, amphibians, small fishes like mullets Liza spp., clinids Clinus spp. and tilapias Oreochromis spp. Occasionally they also eat rodents.

These birds breed in May-July. The nest is a shallow scrape on open ground, where the female lays 4 yellowish-green eggs with speckles. The eggs are incubated by both parents for 24-25 days. The chicks are precocial and leave the nest within 24 h of hatching, but follow the parents until fledging, 25-31 days after hatching.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and a global population estimated at 440.000-1.500.000 individuals. The overall population trend is stable, although some populations have unknown trends. In the Chinese, North Korean and South Korean regions of the Yellow Sea this species is threatened by the degradation and loss of its preferred wetland habitats through environmental pollution, reduced river flows and human disturbance. The same types of threats also occur in other parts of their range, but on a much smaller scale.

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