The Common greenshank is not a particularly big bird, with a length of about 36 cm and a weight around 250 gm, yet those birds that we see in Southern Africa are mainly visitors from Northern Europe, where they breed. Although some birds are known to over-winter in Southern Africa, the majority arrives in July and departs again in May, thus making a twice-a-year crossing between Europe and Africa. Other birds migrate from Northern Europe to Southern Europe, Southern Asia and even to Australasia to escape the winter, so it is pretty widespread.
The Common greenshank has a mottled grey upper body; white lower back and tail; white lower body; a long, straight black bill, and long, light greenish-grey legs. It is closely related to the Greater yellowlegs and the Spotted redshank. (What is it with these legs?) It almost always calls a loud tew-tew-tew on take-off.
They are found on dams, sewage ponds, vleis, and at the seashore where they feed on small fish, molluscs, crustaceans, worms, and tadpoles. Although they are usually solitary, they will sometimes be found in loosely coordinated groups as they forage in shallow water, particularly when food is abundant. They feed while wading forward at a steady walk, dashing forward when they spot a small fish or some other likely prey within reach. They are quite wary birds, readily taking to flight when alarmed.
They breed in Northern Europe, nesting on the ground in a hollow lined with grass or oteerh plant material. The female lays 3 to 5 pale yellowish-green eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 24 days.