Greenshank - Encyclopedia




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GREENSHANK, one of the largest of the birds commonly known as sandpipers, the Tetanus glottis of most ornithological writers. Some exercise of the imagination is however needed to see in the dingy olive-coloured legs of this species a justification of the English name by which it goes, and the application of that name, which seems to be due to Pennant, was probably by way of distinguishing it from two allied but perfectly distinct species of Tetanus (T. calidris and T. fuscus) having red legs and usually called redshanks. The greenshank is a native of the northern parts of the Old World, but in winter it wanders far to the south, and occurs regularly at the Cape of Good Hope, in India and thence throughout the Indo-Malay Archipelago to Australia. It has also been recorded from North America, but its appearance there must be considered accidental. Almost as bulky as a woodcock; it is of a much more slender build, and its long legs and neck give it a graceful appearance, which is enhanced by the activity of its actions. Disturbed from the moor or marsh, where it has its nest, it rises swiftly into the air, conspicuous by its white back and rump, and uttering shrill cries flies round the intruder. It will perch on the topmost bough of a tree, if a tree be near, to watch his proceedings, and the cock exhibits all the astounding gesticulations in which the males of so many other Limicolae indulge during the breeding-season - with certain variations, however, that are peculiarly its own. It breeds in no small numbers in the Hebrides, and parts of the Scottish Highlands from Argyllshire to Sutherland, as well as in the more elevated or more northern districts of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and probably also thence to Kamchatka. In North America it is represented by two species, Tetanus semipalmatus and T. melanoleucus, there called willets, telltales or tattlers, which in general habits resemble the greenshank of the Old World. (A. N.)

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