Proposal (749) to South American Classification Committee


Add Tringa nebularia (Common Greenshank) to the main list



On 16 February 2006, an adult non-breeding (definitive basic) Tringa nebularia was found by four observers at Pointe Saint-François, Cayenne, French Guiana; photograph published by Claessens and Comité d’Homologation de Guyane (2015).


The small published black and white photograph is just about sufficient to identify the species, although publication of colour photographs of the same bird (one reproduced here) would have been much more satisfactory and appropriate given the status of the species in the Americas.




Note the overall huge size for a shorebird, long slender and very slightly upswept bill, and the extremely long legs. The species has not been previously recorded in South America. There are no real confusion species.  Nonbreeding Tringa melanoleuca (Greater Yellowlegs) has a slighter build, more slender bill, lacks such a paler, contrasting whitish head, and shows a more contrasting and less gray dorsal pattern. Nonbreeding (definitive basic) Tringa guttifer (never recorded in the Americas) is very different, lacks extensive markings on the breast which would more likely tend towards spots, has a more pronounced bicoloured bill and comparatively shorter legs. Non-breeding (definitive basic) Tringa stagnatilis (not recorded in South America) is considerably smaller, has a straight bill and much duller tarsus among other distinctions.


Tringa nebularia is confirmed in the Americas from the Aleutians, Canada, California, and Barbados. In the Old World, the species is generally known as the Greenshank, although Common Greenshank (as in AOU 1998) has gained some traction to distinguish it from Nordmann's Greenshank Tringa guttifer


The photographic evidence is conclusive and I fully recommend a yes vote.



American Ornithologist Union. 1998. Check-list of North American Birds. Seventh Edition. 

Claessens, O. and Comité d’Homologation de Guyane. 2015. Rare birds in French Guiana in 2008–10. Cotinga 37: 66–78.



Mark Pearman, April 2017





Comments from Jaramillo: “YES.  This species is structurally similar to Greater Yellowlegs, and sounds like it, they are closely related. On the other hand, plumage can resemble the structurally different Marsh Sandpiper. In summary, I agree that the photos and publication make a definitive identification of the bird as a Common Greenshank rather than these other two mentioned above, or the rather different Nordmann’s Greenshank.”


Comments from Zimmer: “YES.  The photo appears conclusive.  Greater Yellowlegs is the most similar ID contender, but can be eliminated on the grounds spelled out by Pearman in the proposal.”


Comments from Stiles: "YES. The color photograph is convincing evidence for presence of this species."


Comments from Pacheco: "YES. This good photograph allows the proper identification."


Comments from Robbins: "YES. The identification is clear from the color photo in the proposal."