Common Greenshank

Click here for more species of shorebird and wader in our guide to identification and plumage, or keep reading for Common Greenshank. 

Tringa nebularia

Overview

Juvenile birds can be told in the field primarily by median and lesser coverts which are brown in base colour and edged buff or whitish with broken tips (unbroken in winter adults): see graphic below. Some coverts can occasionally have spotting around the edges. These feathers can in some cases remain identifiable in the hand until the autumn of the bird's second calendar year, but are harder to tell on the closed wing in the field.

1w birds. The median and lesser coverts are not as exposed on the closed wing as the greater coverts (see the "Topography" tab on the menu bar above) but the brown base colour of these juvenile coverts makes them distinguishable in juvenile and 1w birds from winter adults, whose coverts have a grey base colour, until at least Feb/Mar. The upperparts of 1w birds will be as adult non-breeding by around Nov/Dec.

 

Adult winter birds are told in the field primarily by their grey upperparts and their wing coverts which are, unlike juvenile coverts, have a dark subterminal band (or spots), are grey in base colour and are fringed whitish with unbroken tips.

 

There are differences in patterning on juvenile and adult non-breeding tail feathers, but these are difficult to discern in the field.

 

Note that Greenshank do not breed until their third calendar year, and so there will be plumages in 2cy birds that are intermediate between non-breeding and adult breeding.     

Ageing
A photo of a juvenile Common Greenshank shorebird taken by Matthew Feargrieve

Juvenile. Told by brown base colour to feathers, and wing median and lesser coverts edged buff with broken tips.  

A photo of a Common Greenshank shorebird taken by Matthew Feargrieve

The very worn wing coverts on this bird, together with the adult non-breeding tertials, greater coverts and scapulars that have been moulted in, suggest that this is a bird in the spring or summer of its second calendar year. Common Greenshank do not breed until their third calendar year, and will attain a plumage intermediate between non-breeding and adult breeding in their second calendar year. 

Common Greenshank Shorebird in winter plumage by Matthew Feargrieve

Adult winter bird in non-breeding plumage, told by grey base colour of the feathers and the median and lesser coverts with dark subterminal band and unbroken tips.

Click here for more species of shorebird and wader in our guide to identification and plumage.