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A winter visitor to Poole and Christchurch harbours.


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Greenshank: the nebulous plover

Post date: Wednesday, 26 February, 2014 - 00:00

A slightly up-turned, greenish, probing beak and pale green legs are good guides to identification here. The greenshank (Tringa nebularia) is aptly named. I think it is a very elegant bird and it is one of my favourite waders. It is a relative of the redshank, similar in size but paler and mottled, in fact it is a fairly nebulous bird so perhaps that where 'nebularia' comes from? It is far less common than its cousin too. Some years we get hardly any, other years quite a few. Indeed, there were ten in front of the hide on Brownsea when we were there recently. It is also interesting for a wader in that it will catch small fish and crustaceans whereas most waders only probe the mud for food. 

The greenshank breeds in northern Europe and Asia on dry moorland and in boggy areas in the Arctic tundra. However, its winter migration destinations can vary from the the south coast of England to the south coast of Africa! Why some travel so far and others stay nearer home is a mystery. It probably does explain why the numbers we see in Dorset vary each year.

Around Poole harbour is undoubtedly the most likely place to find them and smaller number crop up in Christchurch harbour.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Greenshank
Scientific Name Tringa nebularia
Status Occasional
Interest Level
Species Family Sandpipers
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Mudflats
Look for A wader with pale green legs
Additional Identification Notes
  • Over winter in Dorset in small numbers every year
  • A slender, rather elegant bird with a longish neck 
  • The pale green legs are unique and a positive identification feature