Bar-tailed GodwitLimosa lapponica

adult male, breeding
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult female, breeding
Jari Peltomaki/VIREO
juvenile
Jari Peltomaki/VIREO
adult, nonbreeding
Steve Young/VIREO
adult male, breeding
John Puschock/VIREO

Family

Description

Widespread in summer across northern Europe and Asia, this godwit also crosses the Bering Strait to nest in western Alaska. Big, noisy, and cinnamon-colored, it is conspicuous on its tundra nesting grounds. Bar-tailed Godwits from Alaska spend the winter in the Old World. A few may show up on either coast of North America in migration; such strays, in dull winter plumage, often associate with flocks of other godwits, where they are easily overlooked.

Habitat

Mudflats, shores, tundra. In Alaska, nests on rolling hills of tundra, on slopes with hummocky ground cover and low stunted shrubs, a habitat shared with Whimbrels; adults may feed on coastal lagoons some distance from nesting sites. In migration and winter mainly on tidal mudflats along coast.

Feeding Diet

Includes insects, crustaceans, mollusks. In summer in Alaska, feeds mainly on aquatic insects, also occasionally seeds and berries. On mudflats and shores at other seasons, feeds on crustaceans, mollusks, insects, annelid worms.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by probing in mud of exposed flats or in shallow water. Females have longer bills and may feed in deeper water than males.

Nesting

First breeds at age of two years. Territorial and courtship display of male involves loud calls and aerial acrobatics, deep wingbeats alternating with glides, as he circles high above tundra. Nest site is usually on a raised hummock, surrounded by grass. Nest is a shallow depression, lined with bits of grass, moss, lichens. Eggs: Usually 4. Olive or pale brown, usually with a few brown spots. Incubation begins with laying of last egg; both male and female incubate, and eggs hatch in about 3 weeks. Young: Shortly after hatching, young are led to nearby marshy areas, where they stay until able to fly. Both parents tend young, and young find all their own food. Age at first flight probably about 30 days. One brood per year.

Eggs

Usually 4. Olive or pale brown, usually with a few brown spots. Incubation begins with laying of last egg; both male and female incubate, and eggs hatch in about 3 weeks. Young: Shortly after hatching, young are led to nearby marshy areas, where they stay until able to fly. Both parents tend young, and young find all their own food. Age at first flight probably about 30 days. One brood per year.

Young

Shortly after hatching, young are led to nearby marshy areas, where they stay until able to fly. Both parents tend young, and young find all their own food. Age at first flight probably about 30 days. One brood per year.

Conservation

Most of population is in Old World. Alaskan breeding numbers seem to be stable.

Range

Alaskan and Siberian birds winter from southeast Asia south to Australia and New Zealand. Those from Alaska are now known to make a remarkable flight over the ocean, covering more than 6,000 miles in an epic nonstop migration that may take eight days of continuous flying. Strays in the lower 48 States may come from either Asia or Europe.

Listen

calls & song
calls

Similar Species

adult, nonbreeding

Long-billed Dowitcher

Although the two dowitcher species are strikingly similar in appearance, they tend to segregate by habitat. The Long-billed prefers fresh water at all seasons; it is a common migrant through much of North America (but scarce in the northeast).

adult, breeding

Marbled Godwit

This big cinnamon-colored sandpiper inhabits the northern Great Plains in summer. When it leaves the prairies, the Marbled Godwit goes to coastal regions and becomes quite gregarious. Large flocks roost together in the salt meadows at high tide, or stand together in shallow water above the flats, probing deeply in the mud with their long bills.

adult male, breeding

Hudsonian Godwit

Once thought to be very rare, even endangered, this big sandpiper was probably just overlooked on its long migration between the Arctic and southern South America. In spring it moves north across the Great Plains, pausing at marshes and flooded fields more often than at the mudflats thronged by other shorebirds. In fall, most fly nonstop from James Bay, Canada, to South America. Some stop in fall on our Atlantic Coast, especially when driven there by northeasterly winds.

adult male, breeding

Black-tailed Godwit

The rarest of the four godwits in our area, the Black-tail nests in Eurasia and is only a stray to North America. In Alaska it may be a rare but regular migrant in spring in the Aleutian Islands. On our Atlantic Coast it is only casual or accidental, but strays have been found in several states and provinces, from Newfoundland to Florida.

adult

Whimbrel

The most widespread of the curlews, nesting in the Arctic across North America and Eurasia, wintering on the coasts of six continents. Whimbrels tend to concentrate in flocks at a few favored spots in migration, so that the observer sees either many of them or else very small numbers. The name "Whimbrel," originating in England, apparently began as a loose interpretation of the bird's call.

adult, breeding

Terek Sandpiper

An odd shorebird from Eurasia with short legs and a long, upcurved bill. On a mudflat with other sandpipers, the Terek often draws attention by its animated behavior, running about more actively than the other birds. It occurs in small numbers in western Alaska during migration, occasionally in flocks.

Vireo

iPad Promo