Common Greenshank

Did you know?

The Greenshank will often stalk fish or shrimps before making a rapid dash to snatch a feed. They are also sometimes seen stirring up the bottom with their feet to disturb prey and then swinging their bills from side to side to catch them.

Clear ringing 'tchu - tchu-tchu' call
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
May to August
Clutch Size: 
1 to 5 eggs
26 days
Nestling Period: 
31 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Common Greenshank is a large, rather heavily built wader. When not breeding, it is mainly grey-brown above and pale below. The head and neck are flecked with dark grey. The bill is dark to green-grey and is long with a slight upward curve. There is a narrow white eye ring and the long legs are yellowish-green. In flight, the Greenshank has a dark outer-wing and an obvious white rump and back. When breeding, there are bold black chevrons on the chest and the upper body is heavily streaked and marked. They are rarely seen in groups but in twos or individually. Young birds are similar to non-breeding adults, but with browner upperparts.

Similar species: 

The Common Greenshank is similar to the Marsh SandpiperT. stagnatilis, especially in flight, where the long white back and rump with pale tail of each species are similar. The Marsh Sandpiper is daintier and the bill a lot more slender and needle-like. The bill of the Common Greenshank is slightly up-turned and Greenshanks stand tall and erect and may bob their heads when alarmed. Their ringing call is very distinctive as they fly off when disturbed. Greenshanks and Marsh Sandpipers are often seen together.

Where does it live?

The Common Greenshank breeds in the Palaearctic regions and is widespread in Africa, Coastal Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Philippines and southern New Guinea. They are common throughout Australia in the summer.


Common Greenshanks are found both on the coast and inland, in estuaries and mudflats, mangrove swamps and lagoons, and in billabongs, swamps, sewage farms and flooded crops.

Seasonal movements: 

Common Greenshanks are migratory, breeding in Palaearctic regions and moving south in a broad front, along the coasts and inland to their non-breeding areas. Greenshanks arrive in Australia in August and numbers increase slowly until September, with larger numbers arriving until November. Following their arrival, they normally remain in the same location with some local movements. Birds move north again in March and April.

What does it do?

Greenshanks eat insects, worms, molluscs, small fish and crustaceans, feeding both by day and night. They feed by picking from the surface, probing, sweeping and lunging at the edges of mudflats or shallows. They may walk along the shoreline and even chase small fish in the shallow water.


Common Greenshanks do not breed in Australia but migrate back north to the Palaeartic region. The Greenshank males are the first to arrive at the breeding site and, after establishing a territory, will begin display flights, rising up and down in the air, while singing richly and sometimes tumbling and turning. Females may join in the display. The male will often build more then one nest before the female selects one. Nests are shallow depressions lined with feathers and local vegetation, and are often built near something solid like boulders or tree stumps. Both sexes share the incubation and the raising of the young.

Living with us

Threats on the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (the migration route to Australia) include economic and social pressures such as wetland destruction and change, pollution and hunting.

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