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Bar-tailed godwit

What am I?

The bar-tailed godwit is a long-billed, long-legged wading bird which visits UK shores for the winter. Most usually seen in its grey-brown winter plumage, birds in spring may show their full rich chestnut breeding plumage. In flight it shows a white patch stretching from the rump up the back, narrowing to a point.

It breeds in the Arctic of Scandinavia and Siberia and hundreds of thousands of them pass through the UK, on their way further south, or stop off here for the winter.

How to spot them

During spring and summer, adult bar-tailed godwits have dark brown and grey backs and brick-red heads, necks and underparts. In winter, they are streaky-grey above and white below. When they fly, bar-tailed godwits have a barred tail, and a white wedge on the rump and back; their feet only just stick out past their tail. They are shorter-necked and -legged than black-tailed godwits, and have a slightly upturned bill.

Where to see them

The largest numbers of bar-tailed godwits can be seen on large estuaries and around most of the UK’s coastline.

Conservation status

The bar-tailed godwit is amber listed in the UK. (Opens in a new window) .

Did you know?

Some bar-tailed godwits breed in Alaska and fly 7,000 miles non-stop to their wintering grounds in New Zealand. They shut down half of their brains so they can sleep whilst flying.