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Tringa nebularia (Common greenshank) 

Groenpootruiter [Afrikaans]; Uphendu [Xhosa]; Koe-koe-lemao (generic term for sandpiper), Seealemabopo-holo [South Sotho]; N'wantshekutsheku, Xitsatsana, Xitshekutsheku (generic terms for sandpiper or plover) [Tsonga]; Groenpootruiter [Dutch]; Chevalier aboyeur [French]; Grünschenkel [German]; Perna-verde-comum [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Scolopacidae

Tringa nebularia (Common greenshank) Tringa nebularia (Common greenshank) 

Common greenshank. [photo Stephen Davis ©]

Common greenshank, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in a broad band across taiga and forest from Scotland to Kamchatka, Siberia, migrating in the non-breeding season to the area from Ireland east to the Mediterranean, southern Asia and Australia and south to sub-Saharan Africa, including southern Africa. Here it is is common across much of the region, generally preferring mud, sand or gravel margins of dams and ponds, inundated short grassland, sandy and muddy riverbeds, natural pans, salt-works, rocky and sandy beaches, estuaries, salt-marshes, lagoons and mangroves.

Distribution of Common greenshank in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Southern African birds originate from Russia, with adults getting to the region in the period from July-September while juveniles arrive later in October and November.



Recorded by June Stannard, Uitenhage, South Africa 1965, [© Transvaal Museum]



It mainly eats fish fry, tadpoles and insects inland, while at the coast its diet is dominated by small crabs, shrimps, mud and sand prawns, polychaete worms and fish fry. An active and agile forager, it mainly catches prey by plucking them from the ground or shallow water, or it sweeps its bill from side to side on the water surface while rapidly opening and shutting its bill. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • shrimps
    • small crabs
    • polychaetes
    • Upogebia africana (Estuarine mudprawns)
  • Vertebrates
    • fish
      • Liza (mullet)
      • Clinus (clinids)
      • Oreochromis (tilapia)


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.