Thursday, 18 December 2014

Good Godwits!

Hi all,

I thought I'd come back to a wading bird today and one that I've seen in a couple of places and didn't know  much about, especially how much we should be concerned about them.

Black tailed Godwit (limosa limosa)
I'm talking today about Black tailed Godwits. They are a bird that's of real concern. Numbers are very low particularly with as little as 50 breeding pairs in the UK. They have an RSPB RED status and Species of Conservation Importance, and in some areas their habitats are protected with a Special Protection Area designation. 

There are a number of different theories for their low numbers, mainly focusing on a lack of habitat. Due to drainage of wetlands and marshes for agricultural or development reasons their natural habitat is declining. Here's a few facts I found about them:

  • They are a long legged long billed wader with grey brown plumage in winter months and orangey brown breast,  belly and head in the summer. The female is larger than the male and has a much longer beak.
  • They like a particular type of ground and if the reeds and grasses aren't to their liking they don't want to nest there. They can get trampled on, and in some areas wetlands can flood and wash their nests away. 
  • There are two types of Black Tailed Godwit - the Icelandic (limosa limoa island is) and the European (limosa limosa limosa). While the Iceland type breed in Iceland and come here to winter, the European type breed all over Europe.
  • Length 42 cm
  • Wingspan 76 cm
  • Weight - (m) 280g (f) 340g
  • There are 54-57 breeding pairs in the UK, some in Norfolk and I have seen them at Titchwell & I've also seen them at Nosterfield 
  • There are 44,000 wintering birds in the Uk and 99,000-140,000 pairs in Europe 
  • Mostly seen in the UK late summer to winter
  • Commonly mistaken for their cousin the Bar tailed Godwit - but the Bar has a much shorter neck and legs than the Black, the Bar doesn't have striped wings and the Black is more orangey in the summer. The Bar's bill is also slightly curved.

  •  Make nests in marshes and grasslands made from a shallow scrape lined with leaves and grasses. 
  • The male and female Icelandic Godwit will winter separately and will then amazingly meet up in Iceland within a couple of days of each other! How they do this no one really knows. They will then find each other, breed and incubate their eggs before the female flies off, the male stays with the chicks until they fledge and then migrates too.  Male and female pairs will do this throughout their lives unless one of them fails to arrive. The chicks are gorgeous little balls of fluff with really long legs and toes and they are dsigned this way because they are out wading almost as soon as they're born! European godwits breed all over Europe. 

  • Because numbers are so low, work is being done to try to support them in increasing their numbers again. This is done by protecting their habitats and encouraging farmers not to interfere with the land around these sites, or by providing artificial habitats.  Numbers of breeding pairs in the UK are extremely low but they are slowly increasing due to the fantastic work of conservationists. You can find out more about this on the site and you can record sightings at bird

  • Also known as black wits or red godwits
For more information on these birds try

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