Key facts

Scientific name: Tringa nebularia

Status: Resident breeding species and passage migrant

Breeding birds: 700-1,500 pairs

Wintering birds: 700 birds

UK passage: 1,400 birds

Conservation status: Amber

Length: 30 – 35 cm

Wingspan: 68 – 70 cm

Weight: 125 – 290 g


Adult greenshanks in breeding plumage have spotted and streaked dark brown upperparts with brown lesser-wing coverts. They have a white back, rump, and uppertail coverts, the longest of which are barred with dark brown. Their underparts are white and their neck, upper breast, and flanks and heavily streaked and spotted with blackish-brown.

Their heads are streaked with brown and black and they have a white crown and hindneck steaked with brown. They have a white supercilium and a dark line that extends from the lores to behind the eye. The sides of the head are white with brown streaks.

 Greenshanks have long bills that curve slightly upwards. It is dull green with a black tip. Their eyes are dark brown and they have pale green or yellow legs and feet.

Out of breeding plumage greenshanks have uniform grey upperparts, their breast, foreneck, face and underparts are white and they have dark brown wing-coverts.

Females are similar to males but she is slightly larger than the male.

Juvenile greenshanks have brown upperparts with pale buff fringes. Their neck and breast are heavily streaked.


Greenshanks breed from April to June. They are mainly monogamous although some males are bigynous. Their nest is a scrape in the ground lined with grass and plant matter often sited next to a piece of dead wood.

Greenshanks lay 4 pale buff eggs with dark brown spots, which are incubated by both adults for 23-24 days. If the male has two mates the female spends most of the time at the nest.  

Chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and move away hiding in vegetation. The young may be reared by one parent or they may be separated and raised by both. They fledge between 25 and 30 days after hatching.


Greenshanks eat insects and their larvae, as well as aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans, molluscs, amphibians, and small fish.  


Where to see them

From April to August greenshanks can be found on their breeding grounds in the north and west of Scotland around boggy moorland and peatland pools.

Passage birds can be seen during migration between April and May and July and September around lakes, coastal wetlands, estuaries and freshwater marshes.

During winter they are found in the estuaries of South West England, Wales, West Scotland, and Northern Ireland.


Niels Van Doninck/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Nebularia in the greenshank’s scientific name is from the Latin nebula meaning “mist” and refers to the bird’s preferred damp marshy habitat. 

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