Bar-tailed Godwits are the world record holders for non-stop flight: they have been recorded travelling 13,500km from Alaska to Tasmania in only 11 days flying at an average of more than 50km/h, losing almost half of their body weight along the way. While most birds leave Australia in April and May, to return to their breeding grounds, some birds (mostly young birds) remain all year round.
Bar-tailed Godwits are quite large waders, with females being bigger than males. The Bar-tailed Godwit is mainly mottled brown above and lighter and more uniform buff below. It has dull white underwings, and a long, slightly upturned bill. As the name suggests, the white tail is barred with brown. The non-breeding plumage of the Bar-tailed Godwit is the main phase seen in Australia. The breeding plumage is darker and more rufous, with females duller than males. Young birds resemble non-breeding birds. Their average size is 38cm.
Calls include a rapid “tititi” and a sharp “kuwit” in alarm. Bird call recorded by: Nigel Jackett
Bar-tailed Godwits arrive in Australia each year in August from breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. They are more numerous in northern Australia.
Bar-tailed Godwits inhabit estuarine mudflats, beaches and mangroves. They are common in coastal areas around Australia. They are social birds and are often seen in large flocks and in the company of other waders.
Birds wade through the shallows or exposed mud and probe their long bills rapidly into the bottom to find food
Bar-tailed Godwits feed on molluscs, worms and aquatic insects. Birds wade through the shallows or exposed mud and probe their long bills rapidly into the bottom to find food. Feeding parties may number up to 30 or more birds and include non-breeding migrants and young birds that remain all year round
The Bar-tailed Godwit is a non-breeding migrant in Australia. Breeding takes place each year in Scandinavia, northern Asia and Alaska. The nest is a shallow cup in moss and is either lined with vegetation or is unlined. Both sexes share the incubation of the eggs and care for the young.