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.
What they eat:
Mainly shellfish, marine snails and worms and shrimps.
- UK wintering:
- 41,000 birds
This bird species has different identifying features depending on sex/age/season.
Bar-tailed godwit (male/summer plumage)
Bar-tailed godwit (winter plumage)
The two godwit species that occur in the UK - black-tailed and bar-tailed - can be quite tricky to identify. Though their feathers are constantly changing, birds' body shapes stay the same. Instead of concentrating on what colour a bird is, it's good to look at its other structural features.
Black-tailed godwits have longer legs than the bar-tailed. Sometimes it's hard to see that when they're wading, though! While both godwits have really long bills, the black-tailed's is often longer and a little bit straighter. Bar-tailed godwits' bills are noticeably upcurved.
When in orangey breeding plumage, a black-tailed godwit's belly has black stripes - a bar-tailed's is plain. In its grey-brown, non-breeding plumage, a black-tailed godwit has plain back feathers. At all times of year, a bar-tailed godwit has a streaky back. In breeding plumage, the only bright orangey-red bar-tailed godwits are males. The females are much paler.
If you see a godwit flying, it's easy to identify it. Black-tailed godwits have a bold black and white stripe on each wing, as well as a black and white tail.