The Common Greenshank, also known as Greenshank or Tringa nebularia, is a wader that belongs to the large family of Scolopacidae. The name “Tringa” is a New Latin term given to the sandpiper in 1599 by Aldrovandus based on a wading bird described by Aristotle. On the other hand, nebularia is the Latin term for “mist.” This relates to the damp, marshy habitat of Greenshanks.
This species was first discovered by Norwegian bishop and botanist Johan Ernst Gunnerus in 1767. Common Greenshanks are commonly found across the world, particularly in northern and southern Europe, Asia, Africa, Tasmania, and New Zealand. They only breed in northern Europe and some parts of Asia. Its closest relatives include Spotted Redshanks and Greater Yellowlegs. These three species form close-knit groups.
Since their general population is widely distributed worldwide, and they appear to be on a stable rise, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorized this bird species as Least Concern.
Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: T. nebularia
The physical characteristics of a Common Greenshank
This elegant wader is famous for its two distinctive characteristics: an upcurved, long bill with greenish-grey basal half and black tip and greenish legs, hence its common name. A breeding adult common Greenshank can grow between 30-35 cm in length, has a wingspan of 68-70 cm, and weighs between 125-290 g. It has a streaked and spotted black-brown upperparts, pale white underparts, and brown lesser wing-coverts. Its wings become dark when in flight, creating a beautiful contrast with its white underparts, rump, and upper tail coverts. Its longest upper tail coverts are barred brown.
Its head has streaks of black, brown, and white from the crown to its hindneck. There is also a present indistinct whitish supercilium and a dark brown-black line that extends from the lores to behind the eye.
A female Common Greenshank is slightly larger than a male. A non-breeding adult has uniform grey upperparts. Its face, breast, foreneck, and underparts are plain white.
The distribution and habitat of Common Greenshanks
As was previously mentioned before, Common Greenshanks are commonly found worldwide, except north and south America. Common Greenshanks breed in northern Europe and northern Asia. They pass southern Europe and central Asia. Non-breeding individuals take refuge in central and south Africa, south and southeast Asia, and Australasia. Common Greenshanks are migratory birds, spending the winter in Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and Australasia on freshwater.
They breed in taiga zone, moorlands with scattered trees, open marshes and bogs, and forest clearings. During migration, they frequent flooded marshes, meadows, sandbars, and dried lakes. During winter, they can be seen in freshwater and marine wetlands.
The behavior of a Common Greenshank
The Common Greenshank emits a loud, trisyllabic call when in flight or flushed. It sounds like a sharp “chip” or “tchuk.” During the breeding season, they produce more varies sounds, like a melodious, repetitive “too-hoo.”
This species normally feeds alone, or sometimes within flocks made up of 20-30 birds. It spends most of its time foraging with a steady, casual walk while probing the water surface using its long, upcurved bill. They congregate in large flocks at roost, typically on open ground during a high tide season.
Common Greenshanks form monogamous pairs, though some males tend to be bigynous. Males arrive at breeding sites to mark their territories and perform aerial displays, which sometimes are joined in by females. Both male and female share nesting duties. Nests are characterized by shallow depressions outlined with feathers and plant materials. The female Common Greenshank usually lays four buffy-white eggs with dark brown spots. Both adults will incubate the eggs for 23-24 days. If a male has two mates, the female will fulfill most of the responsibility.
When hatched, chicks will appear pale grey with dark markings and white underparts. As soon as they are hatched, they will leave the nest immediately and hide among the vegetation.
The diet of a Common Greenshank
This species feeds in shallow water and edge. Its diet mainly consists of small fish, shrimps, crustaceans, annelids, mollusks, worms, and small amphibians. They also occasionally feed on rodents. They feed through poking, sweeping, and lunging the water surface.
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