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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

ANIMAL TRACKER

Greenshank


* Japanese name: Aoashi-shigi
* Scientific name: Tringa nebularia
* Description: An elegant, medium-sized wading bird (some 30-cm long in the body), the greenshank lives up to its name: It has long green legs ("shanks"). It also has a long sharp bill, which is gray at the base and, unlike other waders' bills, is slightly upturned. In summer, the breeding season, greenshanks are brown, and in winter their plumage turns gray and gray-brown. When they fly, a white wedge can be seen on the back. The underparts are white. Greenshanks call regularly; the alarm call is a loud, three-syllable whistle. They perform elaborate, swerving, high-speed mating flights as if they are dancing in the air. There are two similar species of wader: the greater yellowlegs, and the spotted redshank. No prizes for guessing the color of these birds' legs.
* Where to find them: In Honshu and Hokkaido, near pools on moorland and bogs, around lakes and marshes, estuaries and swamps. Greenshanks breed on dry ground near marshy feeding areas; they lay four eggs in a scrape on the ground that serves as a nest.
* Food: Worms, insect larvae, snails and fish. Waders forage by digging in shallow water and marshy ground for prey. They pry snails out of their shells with the sharp bill, or use it to stab small fish.
* Special features: Greenshanks have an extensive range, and breed in the northern hemisphere in subarctic climes, from Scotland to northern Japan. But for the winter they embark on long migrations to Africa, southern Asia or Australasia, and spend the time feeding in freshwater areas. However, the timing of migration, which has evolved over tens of thousands of years, is now changing. Greenshanks and other waders are starting to migrate to their breeding grounds earlier in the year, and then leave for their winter grounds later in the year. The change in timing is correlated with climate change: warmer conditions mean they don't have to spend as long in the wintering area. These birds are lucky in this respect -- they are flexible and to some extent can adjust their behavior to cope with climate change. Other species, and especially plants, which can't fly to a more suitable climate, are not so lucky

PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET



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