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Bar-Tailed Godwit

Bar-Tailed Godwit

Key facts

Scientific name: Limosa lapponica
Status: Winter visitor and passage migrant

Wintering birds: 41,000

Conservation status: Amber
Length: 37 – 39 cm
Wingspan: 70 – 80 cm
Weight: 230 – 245 g


In summer plumage adult male bar-tailed godwits have brick-red underparts and white undertail coverts. Their upperparts are rust coloured with chestnut and grey fringes. They have white tails with dark bars and their heads are rust with pale eyebrows and dark brown eyes. They have long, thin, black bills which are slightly turned up at the end with a pink base.

In winter plumage adult male bar-tailed godwits have grey plumage without the reddish tones. Their heads are grey with a white supercilium and a dark eye-line. Adult male and female bar-tailed godwits look similar except females are larger with paler plumage and they have longer bills

Juvenile bar-tailed godwits look similar to adults in winter plumage with black and white markings on the wing coverts and brown or grey upperparts.

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Bar-tailed godwits build their nests on the ground. They construct shallow cups lined with grass, moss and lichens.

Bar-tailed godwits lay 2-4 olive or pale brown eggs with dark brown spots, which are incubated by both parents for about 20 days. Shortly after hatching chicks follow their parents to marshy areas where they are able to find their own food. Both male and female care for them till they fledge after about a month.


Bar-tailed godwits eat mainly shellfish, molluscs, insects and worms and occasionally seeds and berries.

Bar-Tailed Godwit

Where to see them

Bar-tailed godwits are mainly seen in the UK between November and February all around the coast but particularly in large estuaries such as the Thames, Ribble, Dee, Humber and Forth.


Tero Linjama/xeno-canto

Did you know?

It has been shown that bar-tailed godwits undertake the longest non-stop migration of any bird with a record flight recorded in 2007 of 11,680 km from Avinof Peninsula in western Alaska to the Piako River near Thames, New Zealand.

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