Scientific name: Limosa limosa
Status: Winter visitor, passage migrant and scarce summer breeding species
Breeding birds: 54-57 pairs
UK wintering birds: 44,000 birds
UK passage birds: 12,400 birds
Conservation status: Red
Length: 40 – 44 cm
Wingspan: 70 – 83 cm
Weight: 280 – 340 g
In breeding plumage black-tailed godwits have a pale chestnut mantle and scapulars with grey and black blotches. The rest of the upperparts are brownish-grey. They have a rufous head, neck, upper breast and upper belly with dark barring on the rest of the underparts.
Their tails are black with white uppertail-coverts, and they have a white wingbar on the upperwing. They have a chestnut-coloured crown, with a pale buff supercilium that runs from the lores to the ear-coverts.
Black-tailed godwits have long orange bills with a black tip. Their eyes are dark brown and their legs and feet are dark blue-grey.
Females are similar to males but are paler and less red, and they have less barring on their underparts. Her bill is slightly longer.
In non-breeding plumage adult black-tailed godwits have grey-brown upperparts, with white edges on their wing-coverts. Their belly and flanks are white with grey mottling, and the supercilium is white which contrasts with dark lores. The base of the bill is browner.
Juvenile black-tailed godwits resemble adults in non-breeding plumage. They have brown streaks on the crown, and their neck and breast is washed with cinnamon. Their upperparts are dark grey-brown with chestnut fringes. Their underparts are white with no barring.
Black-tailed godwits breed between April and mid-June. They produce one brood a season, and if the first clutch is lost a replacement will be laid. They are mainly monogamous and nest in loose colonies. The nest is a shallow scrape on the ground in short vegetation.
Black-tailed godwits lay 3-5 olive-green eggs with brown markings which are incubated by the female and male for 22-24 days. Both parents feed the chicks upon hatching and they fledge 28-34 days later.
Black-tailed godwits feed on insects, molluscs, crustaceans, worms, small crabs, spiders, and fish eggs. In winter they will eat primarily plant material, as well as larvae and snails.
Where to see them
Black-tailed godwits can be seen in the UK all year round but are best looked out for in late summer and winter.
They can be found in estuaries and coastal lagoons as well as inland wetlands.
Stein Ø. Nilsen/xeno-canto
Did you know?
Black-tailed godwits that spend their winters in the UK arrive from Iceland and are a different subspecies (Limosa limosa islandia) from those that breed in the rest of the UK (Limosa limosa limosa). UK breeding black-tailed godwits winter in Africa.