Will you help us to save our threatened birds? The number of birds at severe risk in the UK has nearly doubled. Our birds are struggling to find safe places to nest and enough food to feed their young. They urgently need our help. Find out about the RSPB’s work to save our threatened birds, and discover simple ways you can help them to thrive. Together, we can save our birds.
These large wading birds are a Schedule 1 species. In summer, they have bright orangey-brown chests and bellies, but in winter they're more greyish-brown.
Their most distinctive features are their long beaks and legs, and the black and white stripes on their wings. Female black-tailed godwits are bigger and heavier than the males, with a noticeably longer beak (which helps the sexes to avoid competing for food with each other).
They're very similar to bar-tailed godwits, which breed in the Arctic. Black-tailed godwits have longer legs, and bar-tailed godwits don't have striped wings. As the names suggest, the tail patterns are different, too.
What they eat:
Insects, worms and snails, but also some plants, beetles, grasshoppers and other small insects during the breeding season.
- 40-44 cm
- 70-82 cm
- UK breeding:
- 50 pairs of the limosa 'Eurasian' subspecies, and 7-9 pairs of the islandica subspecies
- UK wintering:
- 44,000 birds from the Icelandic population
- UK passage:
- 12,400 birds
- 99-140,000 pairs
This bird species has different identifying features depending on sex/age/season.
Black-tailed godwit (summer plumage)
Black-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.
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.