|The godwits are a group of large, long-billed,
long-legged and strongly migratory
waders of the bird genus Limosa.
Their long, bills allow them to probe deeply in the sand for aquatic
worms and molluscs. They frequent tidal shorelines,
breeding in northern climates in summer and migrating
south in winter. In their winter range, they flock together where
food is plentiful. A female Bar-tailed Godwit holds the record
for the longest non-stop flight for a land bird.
They can be distinguished from the curlews by their straight or
slightly upturned bills, and from the dowitchers by their
longer legs. The winter plumages are fairly drab, but three species
have reddish underparts when breeding. The females
are appreciably larger than the males.
Although not common tablefare today, they were once a popular
British dish. Sir Thomas Browne writing in the
seventeenth century noted that godwits "were accounted the
daintiest dish in England."
The name Godwit originates in Old English with god meaning good,
and wit coming from wihte, meaning creature.
Godwit, Limosa limosa
Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa
Photo:Berend Jan Stijf.
|The Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, is
a large, long-legged, long-billed shorebird first described by
Linnaeus in 1758. It is a member of the Limosa
genus, the godwits. There are three subspecies, all with orange
head, neck and chest
in breeding plumage and dull grey-brown winter coloration, and
distinctive black and white wingbar at all times.
Its breeding range stretches from Iceland through Europe and areas
of central Asia. Black-tailed Godwits spend winter in
areas as diverse as the Indian Subcontinent, Australia, western
Europe and west Africa. The species breeds in fens, lake
edges, damp meadows, moorlands and bogs and uses estuaries, swamps
and floods in winter; it is more likely to be found
inland and on freshwater than the similar Bar-tailed Godwit. The
world population is estimated to be 634,000 to 805,000
birds and is classified as Near Threatened.
The Black-tailed Godwit is a large wader with long bill,7.5 to
12 cm, and long neck and legs. During the breeding season,
the bill has a yellowish or orange-pink base and dark tip; the
base is pink in winter. The legs are dark grey, brown or black.
The sexes are similar, but in breeding plumage, they can be separated
by the male's brighter, more extensive orange breast,
neck and head. In winter, adult Black-tailed Godwits have a uniform
brown-grey breast and upperparts (in contrast to the
Bar-tailed Godwit's streaked back). Juveniles have a pale orange
wash to the neck and breast.
Godwit, Limosa limosa, India
In flight, its bold black and white wingbar and white rump can
be seen readily. When on the ground it can be difficult to
separate from the similar Bar-tailed Godwit, but the Black-tailed
Godwit's longer, straighter bill and longer legs are
diagnostic. Black-tailed Godwits are similar in body size and
shape to Bar-taileds, but stand taller.
It measures 42 cm from bill to tail with a wingspan of 7082
cm. Males weigh around 280 g and females 340 g.
The female is around 5 % larger than the male, with a bill 12-15%
They mainly eat invertebrates, but also aquatic plants in winter
and on migration.
In the breeding season, prey includes include
beetles, flies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies, caterpillars,
annelid worms and molluscs. Occasionally, fish eggs,
frogspawn and tadpoles are eaten. In water, the most common feeding
method is to probe vigorously, up to 36 times per
minute, and often with the head completed submerged. On land,
Black-tailed Godwits probe into soft ground and also pick
prey items from the surface
Godwit, Limosa lapponica
Photo: Andreas Trepte, www.photo-natur.de
Bar-tailed Godwit, Limosa lapponica, is a large wader in
the family Scolopacidae,
which breeds on Arctic coasts and
tundra mainly in the Old World, and winters on coasts in temperate
and tropical regions of the Old World. It makes the
longest known non-stop flight of any bird and also the longest
journey without pausing to feed by any animal, 11,680 km
along a route from Alaska to New Zealand. (See below)*
The Bar-tailed Godwit is a relatively short-legged species of
godwit. The bill-to-tail length is 3741 cm, with a wingspan
7080 cm. Males average smaller than females but with much
overlap; males weigh 190400 g, while females weigh
260630 g; there is also some regional variation in size
(among the subspecies). The adult has blue-grey legs and a very
dark bill with a slight upward curve and pink at the tip. The
neck, breast and belly are unbroken brick red in breeding
plumage, off white in winter. The back is mottled grey.
It is distinguished from the Black-tailed
Godwit, Limosa limosa, by its barred, rather than
wholly black, tail and a lack of white wing bars. The most similar
species is the Asiatic Dowitcher.
flock of Bar-tailed Godwit landing, Limosa lapponica,
Orielton Lagoon, Tasmania, Australia
JJ Harrison http://www.noodlesnacks.com
There are three subspecies,
listed from west to east:
Limosa lapponica lapponica. Breeds from northern Scandinavia
east to the Taymyr Peninsula; winters western coasts of
Europe and Africa from the British
Isles and the Netherlands south to South Africa, and also around
the Persian Gulf.
Smallest subspecies, males up to 360
g, females to 450 g.
Limosa lapponica menzbieri. Breeds northeastern Asia
from the Taymyr Peninsula east to the Kolyma River delta; winters
southeastern Asia and Australia.
Intermediate between the other two subspecies.
Limosa lapponica baueri. Breeds far northeastern Asia
east of the Kolyma River, and western Alaska; winters in Australia
and New Zealand. Largest subspecies.
It forages by probing in mudflats or marshes. It may find insects
by sight in short vegetation. It eats mainly insects and
crustaceans, but also parts of aquatic plants.
The Bar-tailed Godwit is a non-breeding migrant in Australia.
Breeding take place each year in Scandinavia, northern Asia,
and Alaska. The nest is a shallow cup in moss sometimes lined
with vegetation. Both sexes share incubation of the eggs and
care for the young.
of the Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
Map: United States Geological Survey,
of the Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica.Bar-tailed Godwits
have recently (March 2007) been shown to
undertake the longest non-stop flight of any bird. Using satellite
tracking, birds in New Zealand were tagged and tracked
all the way to the Yellow Sea in China. According to Dr. Clive
Minton (Australasian Wader Studies Group) "The distance
between these two locations is 9,575 km, but the actual track
flown by the bird was 11,026 km. This is the longest known
non-stop flight of any bird. The flight took approximately nine
days. At least three other Bar-tailed Godwits also appear to
have reached the Yellow Sea after non-stop flights from New Zealand."
specific female of the flock, nicknamed "E7", flew onward
from China to Alaska and stayed there for the breeding season.
Then on 29 August 2007 she departed on a non-stop flight from
the Avinof Peninsula in western Alaska to the Piako River near
Thames New Zealand, setting a new known flight record of 11,680
kilometres. Stray birds from Europe and Asia
occasionally appear on both North American coasts.