Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
Red Godwit, Small Curlew
Status: Winter visitor from Iceland. Numbers remain high throughout the winter, especially September.
Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland as the majority of Black-tailed Godwits winter at less than ten sites. The European population is considered to be Vulnerable, due to past and present declines in key populations, such as the Netherlands and Russia.
Identification: Very similar in size and shape to Bar-tailed Godwit, but the slightly longer, straighter bill, neck and legs give it a more elegant appearance. Winter plumage is a similar greyish brown to Bar-tailed, but generally plainer, with less dark-centred feathers, especially on the wings. In flight, the similarities between the godwits disappears - Black-tailed shows a striking contrasty upperwing - mostly black with bold white wingbars, a square white rump and a black tail (Bar-tailed has quite uniform brown wings and a long white rump which extends well up the back forming a white wedge). Summer plumaged or moulting birds often occur, showing varying amounts of rich orange. Typically wades in shallow water on tidal mudflats - favours the inner, more silty parts of estuaries and inlets. Can occur in large flocks of several hundred birds.
Call: Described as loud 'wicka' repeated three times.
Diet: Visual and tactile feeders - feed on a range of invertebrates, including bivalves, polychaete worms and shore crabs. Prefer to feed on muddier estuaries, but also feed in brackish pools and on nearby rough pasture. While on pasture, they feed on the larvae of crane fly (Tipulidae) and on the amphipod Corophium volutator. They have also been recorded feeding on grain in stubble fields on the Wexford Slobs.
Breeding: Breed in lowland wet grassland and marshes. Nine breeding sites were identified in Ireland during the last breeding atlas. More recently, birds were present during the breeding season between 1996 and 1999 inclusive, though breeding was not proven.
Wintering: Winters in a variety of habitats, both inland (particularly grassland and river deltas) and coastal (particularly estuaries), though seldom seen along non-estuarine coast.
Where to see: Little Brosna Callows in County Offaly, Shannon & Fergus Estuary in County Clare, Cork Harbour in County Cork, Dundalk Bay in County Louth and Ballymacoda in County Cork support highest numbers (1,000-3,000 birds).