Home PageBirds of Devon and Cornwall Black-tailed Godwit  
Latin name - Limosa limosa

Black-tailed Godwits can be seen all the year around. There is a small breeding population in the United Kingdom, whilst others visit in the spring and autumn on passage to and from their breeding grounds in Northern Europe to their over-wintering areas in Africa. Birds from Iceland migrate from their breeding grounds to spend the autumn and winter either in southern Ireland or here, where they can be seen on coasts and estuaries mainly in the south and west. Once a common breeding bird in the United Kingdom it became extinct as a breeding species but has once again started to breed here. However fewer than 60 pairs of these wading birds breed in the whole of the UK, most being found at the Ouse Washes near the border between Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. The black-tailed Godwit is a fairly large wading bird, with a long straight bill which is a useful identification aid when trying to distinguish it from the bar-tailed Godwit with its slightly up-curved bill. Their winter plumage is primarily grey upper-parts, white under parts and a black tail with broad white wing bars. However in spring the males develop their summer breeding plumage of a bright orange-red breast whilst females, although many develop reddish patches, are much duller and more like their winter plumage. Young birds have buff covered heads and breasts. In flight, its long legs protrude well beyond the tail to counterbalance its long neck and bill, giving it an elongated appearance.

Black-tailed Godwits breed on wet meadows but are more usually seen on marshes and muddy estuaries. They feed on insects, worms, snails and shellfish probing in the mud, often wading in quite deep water. This photograph was taken at Bowcombe creek, which is part of the Salcombe and Kingsbridge estuary system, on the 2nd January 2010; unfortunately from quite a distance at it was difficult to approach closer without disturbance.

Black-tailed Godwit Black-tailed Godwit