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Kuaka in flight (bar-tailed godwit - Limosa lapponica) | by Steve Attwood
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Kuaka in flight (bar-tailed godwit - Limosa lapponica)

Kuaka - Bar-tailed Godwit-Limosa lapponica. Family: Scolopacidae

New Zealand’s most common migrant wader. The Bar-tailed Godwit is a large wader which breeds on Arctic in Eurasia and Alaska. The eastern race (baueri) then migrates to Australasia, especially New Zealand estuaries, sandy beaches and shores of coastal lakes. It makes the longest known non-stop flight of any bird and also the longest journey without pausing to feed by any animal, 11,680 kilometres (7,258 mi) along a route from Alaska to New Zealand. A relatively short-legged species of godwit. The bill-to-tail length is 37–41 cm, with a wingspan of 70–80 cm. Males average smaller than females but with much overlap; males weigh 190–400 g, while females weigh 260–630 g; there is also some regional variation in size. The adult has blue-grey legs and a very long dark bill with a slight upward curve and pink at the tip. The neck, breast and belly are unbroken brick red in breeding plumage, off white in winter. The back is mottled grey. It forages by probing in mudflats or marshes. It may find insects by sight in short vegetation. It eats mainly insects and crustaceans, but also parts of aquatic plants.

It was shown in 2007 to undertake the longest non-stop flight of any bird. Birds in New Zealand were tagged and tracked by satellite to the Yellow Sea in China. According to Dr. Clive Minton (Australasian Wader Studies Group) "The distance between these two locations is 9,575 kilometres (5,950 mi), but the actual track flown by the bird was 11,026 kilometres (6,851 mi). This was the longest known non-stop flight of any bird. The flight took approximately nine days. At least three other Bar-tailed Godwits also appear to have reached the Yellow Sea after non-stop flights from New Zealand." One specific female of the flock, nicknamed "E7", flew onward from China to Alaska and stayed there for the breeding season. Then on 29 August 2007 she departed on a non-stop flight from the Avinof Peninsula in western Alaska to the Piako River near Thames New Zealand, setting a new known flight record of 11,680 kilometres (7,258 mi).

An important bird to Maori culturally and, prior to European settlement, as a food source. The Koaka’s seasonal comings and goings feature strongly in Maori mythology and lore.


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Taken on January 27, 2014