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:
- 54-57 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.