The bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) is a migratory shorebird which can fly further than any other known bird. This long distance flyer is the subject of our #40 Bird Photography Challenge.
What does it look like?
The Bar-tailed Godwit is a large wader with long legs and a long bill which allows it to probe deeply in the sand for molluscs. The bill is straight or slightly upturned, pink at the base and black towards the tip.
The plumage on the back is mottled grey and the underparts are off-white, also mottled. As the name suggests, the white tail is barred with brown. This is the non-breeding plumage we see in Australia. During breeding season the neck, breast and belly are rufous.
How does it behave?
The Godwit is a social bird often seen in the company of other waders around the coast, along mudflats, beaches and mangroves. It feeds on molluscs, worms and aquatic insects. It wades through the shallows and probes the bottom with its long bill to find food. We saw many of them in feeding parties of over 30 birds.
Breeding takes place in Scandinavia, Northern Asia and Alaska. The nest is a shallow cup in moss. Both sexes share the incubation of the eggs and care for the young.
Did you know?
The Godwit is known to undertake the longest non-stop flight of any bird. Some were recorded flying for 11,000km in only 8 days. Godwits fly at about 60 km/h, flapping their wings most of the way. They do not have completely waterproof feathers, so they can’t stop for a rest at sea. During its long migration, the bird can lose almost half of its body weight. Godwits counteract wind resistance by flying in flocks, in a V formation. This means the bird at the front cuts into the wind first so that there is less wind resistance for the other birds. This makes flying easier for them, and as a result, the whole flock benefits by not becoming so exhausted. The birds have turns at taking the lead.
Where is it found?
The Bar-tailed Godwit is a non-breeding migrant to Australia which arrives here in August each year from breeding grounds in the Northern Hemisphere. Godwits are more numerous in the North of Australia, but are common in all coastal areas.
The images in the gallery were taken at North West Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef, with a Canon 7Dii and 100-400mm lens, hand-held. Click on any image in the gallery to display in full screen.