Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia

  • Sandy Beach & Dunes
  • Sandy shores
  • Fauna
  • Native


The common greenshank is a fully migratory bird measuring between 30 and 35 centimeters and having a wingspan of 68 to 70 centimeters. Their breeding plumage is distinguished by brown markings while non-breeding adults have rather uniform grey feathers on their upperparts, with a white breast, neck and face. Wing coverts are dark. They have long dull green legs and a long slightly up-tilted bill with a grey base. [1]


[1] Van Gils, J., Wiersma, P. & Kirwan, G.M. 2018. Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 17 August 2018). on 17 August 2018).

Habitat and ecology

While breeding, the common greenshank can be found in forest clearings, woody moorlands, open bogs and marshes. It may be found in inland flooded meadows, dried up lakes, sandbars and marshes during migration. Eventually, they settle in a variety of freshwater and marine wetlands during the winter. Estuaries, sandy or muddy coastal flats, saltmarshes and mangroves are some of their usual winter habitats. The common greenshank can occasionally be found on open coasts and quiet stretches of rivers. It feeds on insects and their larvae, crustaceans, annelids, molluscs, amphibians, and small fish, by pecking and probing in shallow water. When it feeds on fish it may forage in flocks. Flocks arrive in southern Africa and Australia from August to September and depart again in March for their return migration towards the north. Tringa nebularia breeds between late April and June. Some non-breeding birds may stay south throughout the summer. They feed both during the day and at night.


Conservation and management

Due to the large range of the species and its population, the common greenshank is currently considered a species of ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN Red List. One major threat, however, is habitat degradation, particularly the degradation of wetlands necessary for the survival of this species, particularly in some of its range. Environmental pollution, reduced river flows and human disturbance are some other important factors. [1]


[1] BirdLife International. 2016.  Tringa nebularia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22693220A86684205. Downloaded on 17 August 2018.


Did you know?

When feeding on fish, this species of bird may be found in denser flocks moving erratically, pecking at prey or even running synchronously in one direction while ploughing or scything their bill through the water. A dash-and-lunge technique is used to catch larger fish.