Black-tailed godwit

   ›      ›   Black-tailed godwit - Limosa limosa

The black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) belongs to the family of snipes and godwits, the Scolopacidae.

The black-tailed godwit species is distributed in the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and Asia. These godwit species are listed by IUCN as "Near Threatened". These godwits are polytypic species.
Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Black-tailed Godwit Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) is a fairly large godwit, measuring 35 to 45 cm in length. These birds are sexually dimorphic, the male weighs 160 to 440 grams and the female weighs 250 to 500 grams.

The black-tailed godwit has dull pink-chestnut breast, upper belly, neck and head during summer. The wintering birds have pale grayish brown plumage. There is a pale supercilium and a dark lore. There is dark brown barring on the back and wings. The tail is black.

The godwit bill is long and straight. It is orange yellow near the base and blackish towards the distal end. In wintering birds, the base of the bill is pinkish. The irises are dark. The legs are long and dark gray in color. The feet project well beyond tail in flight.

In flight, the characteristic white wing-bar, white rump and blackish tail are clearly seen. The godwit call is a strident "weeka..weeka..weeka" or subdued, plaintive "kip..kip..kip" or "chut..chut..chut" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Black-tailed godwit - Limosa limosa
1.Birds of India - Image of Black-tailed godwit - Limosa limosa by Frank Vassen


Birds of India - Photo of Black-tailed godwit - Limosa limosa
2.Indian birds - Picture of Black-tailed godwit - Limosa limosa by Frebeck

Indian birds - Image of Black-tailed godwit - Limosa limosa
3.Birds of India - Photo of Black-tailed godwit - Limosa limosa by Frebeck

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The black-tailed godwit species is distributed in Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa and Asia.

The black-tailed godwit nominate subspecies L. l. limosa is distributed in west and central Europe and western Russia. This subspecies winters in Mediterranean region, sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and western India.

The black-tailed godwit subspecies L. l. islandica is distributed in Iceland, Faroe Islands (Denmark), Shetland Islands (UK) and Lofoten Islands (Norway). This godwit subspecies winters in Ireland, Britain, western France, Spain and Portugal.

The godwit subspecies L. l. melanuroides is distributed in central Russia, east Mongolia, northeast China and northeast Russia. This subspecies winters in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, New Guinea, Australia and Taiwan.

In India, wintering black-tailed godwits are distributed in Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Vagrant black-tailed godwits have been observed in United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Seychelles, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Congo, Malawi, Comoros, Madagascar, Maldives, Greenland (Denmark) and New Zealand.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these black-tailed godwit species in India are, Wild Ass Wildlife Sanctuary, Veeranam Lake, Chilika Lake, Kunthur - Kallur Lakes, Kaj Lake and Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary.

The IBA of these black-tailed godwit species in Iceland are, Skúmsstadavatn, Ósasvædi Ölfusár, Hólmarnir and Austara Eylendid. The IBA in China are, Coastal mudflat of Tianjin, Shuangtai Estuary, Yalu Jiang Estuary and Kaidu River Valley.

Some of the IBA of these black-tailed godwit species in Russia are, Khayryuzova bay, Malakchan bay, Moroshechnaya River, Nevskoye Lake, Chonta, Bylinskaya, Ubinskoye Lake, Kurtan Lake. Chernoye Lake, Ul'skoye bog, Tsninski Forest and Manychstroi area.

Ecosystem and habitat

These black-tailed godwit species do not normally occur in forest. They normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 1000 meters.

The artificial ecosystems and habitats of these godwit species include agricultural lands, pasture lands and urban areas.

The natural ecosystems and habitats of these black-tailed godwit species include, wetlands, estuaries, freshwater lakes, lagoons, marine lakes, tide pools, mudflats, marshes, and temperate grasslands.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these black-tailed godwit consists mainly of insects. Insects, insect larvae, chironomid larvae, beetles, grasshoppers, locust, cicadas, crickets, spiders, maggots, annelid and polychaete worms, molluscs and crustaceans are their primary food.

These godwits also feed on seeds, grains and berries. These species forage on the ground and in shallow water, picking insects and other small prey. The bill is very sensitive and is used for probing mud for locating prey.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these black-tailed godwit species is from April to June in most of their breeding range. They breed in loose colonies. These birds are monogamous. Both of the pair build their nest.

The nesting sites of the black-tailed godwit include grounds with high grass and soft soil, pasturelands, hayfields, wet grasslands, grassy marshlands, steppes and occasionally sandy areas.

The black-tailed godwit nest is a shallow scrape lined with thick layer of stem grass, leaves and other plant material. The clutch may contain three to six olive-green eggs with brown mottling. The breeding pair take turns to incubate the eggs for 23-25 days. The godwit chicks may fledge 25-30 days after hatching.

Migration and movement patterns

These black-tailed godwit species are fully migrant birds.

Migratory black-tailed godwit populations occur in Iceland, central and northern Europe, central and northwest Asia, Mongolia, northern China and northeast Russia. They migrate on a broad front and make long-distance southward flights during July and October for wintering.

The wintering populations of black-tailed godwit make return migration to the breeding grounds from February to April. Many one-year old birds may remain in their wintering range during the summer. Non-breeding birds in the breeding range may make nomadic feeding movements.

Black-tailed godwit - Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Limosa limosa
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Scolopax Limosa Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Scolopacidae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Black-tailed godwit, Chinese: 黑尾塍鹬, French: Barge à queue noire, German: Uferschnepfe, Spanish: Aguja colinegra, Russian: Большой веретенник, Japanese: オグロシギ, Tamil: Karuvaal Mookkaan
  • Other names: Black Tailed Godwit
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, Australia, Europe, Africa, Asia
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, insect larvae, caterpillars, beetles, locust, grasshoppers, crickets, worms, molluscs, crustaceans
  • IUCN status listing: Near Threatened (NT)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) is estimated to be around 614,000 to 809,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of the species is considered to be declining.

Throughout its range, this godwit species is reported to be scarce to locally common. The generation length is 8.6 years. Its distribution size is about 30,300,000

Habitat alteration and destruction, the draining of wetlands for expansion of agriculture, expanding aquaculture activities and livestock farming and ranching are the main threats that are endangering the survival of this godwit species.

IUCN and CITES status

The black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) is approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the godwit species and has listed it as "Near Threatened".

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Limosa limosa
Species:L. limosa
Binomial name:Limosa limosa
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened
The black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) is closely related to Hudsonian godwit (Limosa haemastica) and was previously considered conspecific to L. haemastica.

The three recognized subspecies of black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) are: Limosa limosa limosa (Linnaeus, 1758), Limosa limosa islandica C. L. Brehm, 1831 and Limosa limosa melanuroides (eastern black tailed godwit) Gould, 1846.
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1.Photo source:,_Uitkerkse_Polders,_Belgium_(7173198852).jpg (cropped)
Photo author: Frank Vassen | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 11/6/17
2.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Frebeck | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
3.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Frebeck | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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