Nordmann's Greenshank Tringa guttifer Scientific name definitions
Version: 2.0 — Published February 19, 2021
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Knowledge of breeding ecology is limited. Few studies have been conducted due to remote nature of breeding locations. To date only 6 active nests have been found: 4 in Chaivo Bay at Sakhalin Island, Russia during summer 1976; and 1 each in 2019 and 2020 at Schaste Bay, Khabarovsk Krai, Russia (18; VVP).
The age at first breeding needs study, but is suspected to be during an individual’s second full summer (third calendar year) (19). Pair formation is thought to occur during northward migration from overwintering or stopover sites as birds arrive on breeding grounds already paired (32, 43, 120, 117). One pair, banded in Schaste Bay in 2019, renested together in 2020, suggesting that pair bonds may last multiple years and could be maintained throughout the nonbreeding season (VVP). Males perform display flights immediately upon arrival to the breeding grounds and continue until mid-July (33). The most intense mating displays are in the first 3 hours of the morning, although they occur throughout the day. Copulations occur from late May to early June (VVP).
The species lays the first clutch in late May or early June. Chicks hatch and begin to appear on the coastal meadows in late June to early July, and typically fledge by the end of July or early August (18, 43, 117, 60).
Needs study. Not known to renest or produce a second brood.
Unlike Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) and Solitary Sandpiper (T. solitaria), which nest in trees but inhabit old thrush (Turdus spp.) nests (143, 144), Nordmann’s Greenshank is the only shorebird species known to build their own tree nests from scratch (18, 108, VVP). Until recently it was thought the species only nested in trees; however, in 2020 a ground nest was found within an inland bog of Schaste Bay (145, 146, 147).
The pair hops from tree to tree in search of a suitable forked larch branch 2–5 m off the ground upon which to build a nest. Often, only the supposed male will search for a suitable location while the female perches nearby on a tree or snag watching for possible predators (18). Selection process needs more study.
Little known as only 10 nests have ever been found (6 active, 4 old). Based on the 6 tree-nests, it appears one of the most important features of a suitable nesting platform is the presence of a wide overhanging branch that can completely obscure the nest from above, while simultaneously allow an unobstructed view of the surroundings and provide an area where the species can depart and return unimpeded by obstructive branches (18; VVP).
Based on a small sample size (n = 9), tree nests are situated on a fork of a Cajander larch (Larix cajanderi) branch, 2–4.5 m above ground and either adjacent to the trunk or ~1 m away from it. Nest sites are on the edge of semi-dry, boggy, and fragmented or “thinned” Cajander larch forest stands, 0.75–2.5 km from shore and may be near small lakes, rivers, or other inland water bodies. The flora community in the immediate vicinity is composed of a varying combination of Cajander larch, dwarf pine (Pinus pumila), Middendorf birch (Betula middendrffii), pussy willow (Salix caprea), alder (Alnus spp.), rhododendron (Ericacae spp.), wild rosemary sedge (Ledum palustra), bayberry (Myrica tomentosa), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos), lingonberry (V. vitis-idaea), bog blueberry (V. uliginosum), marsh reedgrass (Calamagrostris langsdorffii), wooly sedge (Carex pallida), Lapland sedge (Carex lapponica), and Duschekia shrubs. Peat moss and reindeer moss (Cladonia spp.) is also a common feature. For a detailed individual description of the 5 nests found in Chaivo Bay, Sakhalin Island, see Nechaev (148).
In 2020, a Nordmann’s Greenshank ground nest was found, the first ever recorded for the species (145). It was on the ground of an inland hummocky bog, underneath several Cajander larch saplings and surrounded by a thicket of crowberry.
When a suitable branch is found, the pair immediately start building the nest, with the supposed male more active than the female. First, they collect small Cajander larch twigs either from the ground or by breaking them with their robust bills and an abrupt head movement. Then they arrange the twigs into a layered platform. When the platform is ready, the pair collects a variety of mosses and lichen (particularly horsehair lichen [Bryoria spp.] from the surrounding area and weave it around the loose twig structure. The finished product is a light and fragile nest with a small and weak nest cup (18; VVP). It is postulated that it evolved the robust bill and stout legs to more aptly break twigs and inhabit trees while nesting (18). It is also hypothesized that the species’ atypical tendency to nest in inland larch stands is an adaptation to avoid nesting in areas that are regularly flooded, such as coastal meadows (11).
The ground nest was found with a complete clutch, so the construction process could not be documented (VVP).
Structure and Composition
Nests vary in structure and composition, but typically are loose constructions composed of small larch twigs as the base and lichen creating the lining of a weak nest cup (18, VVP). Of 6 tree nests, 4 nests were composed of 10–20% larch twigs and 80–90% lichen, one was entirely lichen, and the most recent tree-nest was 70% larch twigs and 30% lichen (18, VVP). One tree-nest and the recently discovered ground nest were sparsely lined with larch bark (VPP, KM). Lichen composition is dominated by speckled horsehair (Bryoria fuscescens), but may also include spotted camouflage lichen (Melanohalea olivacea) rim lichen (Lecanora symmicta), oakmoss lichen (Evernia mesomorpha), and tube lichen (Hypogymnia sachalinensis) (VPP).
The ground nest was lined with several lichen species, small larch twigs and bark, and dry leaves (VPP, KM).
Nests are approximately 17–24 cm in diameter, 3–5.5 cm deep, with a nest cup 9–12 cm in diameter and 2–4.5 cm deep (18, VPP).
Little information. In relation to the forest stand and nesting tree, nest may situated to shield it from strong winds that are frequent in the region, while the wide overhanging branch may serve to shield the nest from rain and sun, as well as hide it from aerial predators (18, VVP).
Maintenance or Reuse of Nests
No information on maintenance of nest. Reuse needs further study. The horsehair lichen found in one tree nest found in 2019 was intricately integrated within the general structure of the nest, a process which takes a fairly long time; thus it is thought that the nest was possibly constructed in previous years and reused with minor additions of more lichen as lining; however, this is not confirmed (VVP).
Mean length 49.2 mm ± 1.1 (range 47–51.4, n = 16) and mean width 34.6 mm ± 0.5 (range 33.4–35.5, n = 16).
Mean 28.5 g ± 1.1 (range 27–30.5, n = 12).
Color and Surface Texture
Onset of Broodiness and Incubation in Relation to Laying
Male and female have well-developed incubation patches that are present through early summer and start to fill-in around late July (VVP).
Exact duration is unknown, but estimated to be ~25 days.
Both sexes alternately incubate the clutch after the third or fourth egg is laid (18). Often one bird incubates while the other watches for avian predators on a nearby elevated structure (typically a live or dead tree) . Upon a switch in incubation duties, the previously incubating bird appears to fly to foraging grounds before returning to the nesting territory to act as the sentinel (VVP). If an avian predator appears, the sentinel partner mobs the intruder until it leaves the area. Meanwhile, the incubating bird sits motionless and is easy to mistake for a dead branch or a clump of lichen. It stays motionless even when a human observer is within 2–3 m (VVP). When flushed, the bird gives off a quick gwaak then flies to the nearest elevated structure. It is quickly joined by its mate and the pair alarm call until the threat is gone (18, 43, 108, 70, 117).
Hardiness of Eggs Against Temperature Stress: Effect of Egg Neglect
Preliminary Events and Vocalizations
Shell Breaking and Emergence
Parental Assistance and Disposal of Eggshells
Condition at Hatching
Chicks are highly precocial and mobile within 24 hours of hatching. Bill pinkish gray. See Appearance: Plumage: Natal Down.
Growth and Development
At 10–14 days of age, chicks have pin feathers developing on wings, breast, and back, and begin to develop a light yellow coloration on basal half of the lower mandible (17, 18). Chicks fledge around 3 weeks of age (VVP).
Sex Ratios and Sex Allocation
After chicks hatch, the family group moves from the inland larch (Larix) forests to coastal meadows along hummocky bogs. Adults continuously fly, perch, or walk 20–30 m in front of the chicks, producing encouraging mek, mek, mek calls until the family group reaches the meadows. If a potential predator is nearby during this transition, one bird mobs the threat while the other stays with the chicks and performs the same mek calls but faster and louder, apparently “telling” chicks to quietly hide under grasses or shrubs. It is thought that a family group may move ~75 m/h, depending on surrounding vegetation and potentially take more than a full day to complete the trek (18).
On the coastal meadow, responds to a potential predator from ~50–100 m away (18, VVP). If a predator is nearby, the above pattern is repeated: one bird stays with the chicks while the other mobs the threat. The mobbing adult flies close to the intruder in circles, or runs nearby, producing the same incessant alarm calls (18, 57). At first, calls are subdued but become louder and more rapid as the danger nears and persist until the threat is 100–150 m away. Once chicks are hidden, the second bird may join its partner in mobbing the threat. At this time, adults often lose all wariness and get within 5–10 m of any danger (18, 60). Often, the brooding adults take advantage of elevated structures (i.e., driftwood) to keep watch on the brood and predators simultaneously (59). The adults also attempt to lead threats away from broods by crouching with fanned wings and tail and slowly walking away from the brood in a pseudo-broken wing display (53). Nearby conspecifics may join the brooding pair in defending their clutch, but with less intensity (17, 18, 58). Once danger has passed, chicks reemerge and quietly peep while running to their parents’ calls (18).
Not observed to directly feed chicks.
Carrying of Eggs or Young
It has been speculated that the species may nest in loose or “diffuse” colonies of 3–10 pairs, with individuals nests ranging from 50 m to 7 km apart. These diffuse groups are thought to stay in close contact, often foraging together and sharing in defense of each other’s nests and chicks (18, 108, 70, 120). More research is needed to confirm this supposed colonial behavior.
Brood Parasitism by Other Species
Departure from the Nest
As chicks are precocial, they depart the nest before fledging.
No information. See Breeding: Young Birds.
Association with Parents or Other Young
Little information, but may associate with at least one parent until early to mid August.
Ability to get Around, Feed, and Care for Self
Little information. May migrate south separately from parents (see Movement and Migration: Migratory Behavior).