A medium-sized (length tip of bill to tip of tail: 230 to 250 mm, body mass: 67 to 94g) shorebird, usually recognized by its long, bright-yellow legs, long neck, graceful stride, and distinctive "tu tu
" call. Sexes are similar in plumage and overall size, females have slightly longer wings on average. Breeding plumage: upperparts mottled gray-brown, white, and black. Underparts white with brown streaking on neck and breast and irregular, blackish barring on anterior flanks. Basic plumage: upperparts uniform gray to gray-brown with pale spots. Underparts white with fine gray streaking on neck and breast (Tibbitts and Moskoff 1999).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
In the Bozeman area, migration periods are from April 28 to May 12 and July 27 to October 10, with peaks around May 4 and September 10 (Skaar 1969).
In summer, breeders are conspicuous residents of open woodlands, meadows, and muskegs in the boreal zone from northwestern Alaska to central Quebec. In winter, they frequent a wide variety of wetland types throughout Central and South America (Tibbitts and Moskoff 1999). A migrant. It occurs in high numbers in interior North America. Primary routes are mid-continent, mostly west of Mississippi River in spring and both along Atlantic coast and mid-continent in fall (Tibbitts and Moskoff 1999). During migration, it occurs along mudflats and shallow ponds, often with vegetated shorelines. Sometimes they occur in flooded fields (Johnsgard 1986).
Aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, particularly flies and beetles. Occasionally, small fish and seeds (Tibbitts and Moskoff 1999).
Typically nests on dry, mossy ridges or hummocks, next to fallen branches and logs, and underneath low shrubs or small trees. Eggs are ovate pyriform in shape and smoke gray with markings in color. Clutch size usually 4. Montana not included in breeding range (Tibbits and Moskoff 1999).