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Kuaka - Bar-tailed godwit _ Limosa lapponica | by Steve Attwood
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Kuaka - Bar-tailed godwit _ Limosa lapponica

Filmed feeding along the shallows of the Avon/Heathcote estuary in Christchurch.

 

Their brown and grey plumage echoes the intertidal mudflats where they forage, and for much of their time in New Zealand they are relatively nondescript birds. But there is nothing nondescript about the migrations of bar-tailed godwits. They perform the longest nonstop flights of any non-seabird, and, unlike a seabird, there is no chance of an inflight snack.

 

Godwits hold cultural significance for many New Zealanders. For Maori they were birds of mystery, (‘Who has seen the nest of the Kuaka?’) and were believed to accompany spirits of the departed; but they were also a source of food. They are the most numerous tundra-breeding shorebird species to occur in New Zealand, with around 90,000 here each year. Virtually all New Zealand birds are from the baueri subspecies breeding in western Alaska. They are relatively common at many harbours and estuaries around the country. Following the breeding season, birds generally begin arriving from early September, usually after a non-stop 8-9 days flight. They begin departing on northern migration from early March, heading for refuelling sites around the Yellow Sea. They do not breed until their fourth year, so each southern winter there are hundreds of non-breeding birds remaining in New Zealand.

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Taken on February 4, 2014