Black-Tailed Godwit

Scientific name: Limosa limosa
IUCN designation: Near Threatened

Western European subspecies: Limosa limosa limosa
IUCN designation: Near Threatened

The elegant and graceful Black-tailed Godwit is generally classified as a large wader species, growing to around 40 cm (1.3 ft) in height and having a wingspan of 70 cm (2.3 ft) 1,2. The Black-tailed Godwit is identified by its long dark legs and its long straight bill3. A key characteristic of its breeding plumage is its bright copper head and neck1. The rest of its summer plumage can be described as scaly or strongly mottled and is dark grey, brown, white and black,3. Its winter plumage, on the other hand, is predominantly greyish-brown3. Females are generally duller and have whiter underparts4. In addition to plumage, its bill changes seasonally. Retaining the dark bill tip, the base will change from yellow-orange in summer to light pink in winter4.

One can easily distinguish the Black-tailed Godwit in flight from similar-looking waders, such as the Bar-tailed Godwit. In addition to its eponymous black tail markings, the Black-tailed Godwit has a defined white wing-bar, framed in black, slightly anterior to the trailing edge5. Its rump is also white4.

The AMASS project is focusing on the nominate subspecies, Limosa limosa limosa, the Western European population of Black-tailed Godwits6. This subspecies follow a migration route beginning at its breeding grounds in the meadows of Netherlands, to its stopover sites in the marshes of Iberia, to its wintering grounds to the coastal lagoons of Sub-Saharan Africa6.

Presently, the biggest threat to Black-tailed Godwits is changing agricultural practices. An estimated 50% of the world’s original wetlands are lost, converted to agricultural, urban and industrial areas. fewer wetland habitats lead to a loss of nesting habitat for the Black-tailed Godwit.

In the Netherlands, agricultural intensification reduces cover for the species, leading to significant predation and mortality of chicks and eggs7.

The switch to monoculture and silage monoculture has led to reduced amounts of food (e.g. insects) and accordingly starvation8.

Threats that affect Godwit migration include pollution of areas wherein they stopover. Urban expansion and again agricultural intensification affect stopover areas as well9.