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Black-tailed godwit

What am I?

A tall, elegant wader, the black-tailed godwit breeds in wet grasslands, and winters on coastal estuaries and marshes, and at inland shallow waters. A sociable bird, it forms large flocks when feeding, probing the mud with its bill for invertebrate-prey. Black-tailed godwits form monogamous pairs that can last for 25 years. Every year, faithful couples will arrive at their breeding grounds within three days of each other, mate and raise their chicks together.

How to spot them

During spring and summer, adult black-tailed godwits have greyish backs, white bellies and brick-orange heads, necks and chests. In winter, they are grey above and white below. When they fly, black-tailed godwits display a black tail, a white rump and broad, white wingbars; their feet stick out well beyond their tail. They are taller than the similar bar-tailed godwit, and have a straighter bill.

Where to see them

Fairly common on migration at wetlands throughout the country. Winters on estuaries around the coast.

Conservation status

The black-tailed godwit is red status in the UK (Opens in a new window)

Did you know?

The UK’s breeding black-tailed godwits winter in Africa, while the birds that spend their winters on the south coast of the UK nest in Iceland. Those that nest in Iceland are actually a different subspecies (Limosa limosa islandia) to those that breed in the rest of Europe (Limosa limosa limosa).

black-tailed Godwit; birdaware essex, essex coast