Bar-tailed Godwits 25-2-12
Godwin, Sea Woodcock
The females are larger and have longer bills than the males. This allows them to forage on more deeply buried, slightly larger prey. Consequently feeding ranges differ between sexes in parts, and it is thought that males may also select lower quality habitat to avoid competition.
Status: Winter visitor to coastal estuaries from October to April from Russia and Scandinavia
Conservation Concern: Amber-listed in Ireland as the majority of the population winter at less than ten sites. The European population is considered to be Secure.
Identification: At first glance resembles a smaller version of a Curlew - similar shape (long legs and neck) and plumage (grey/brown with streaking). The long, straight and slightly upturned bill, however is quite different. Summer plumaged birds occur sometimes, showing varying amounts of orange/brick red on the body feathers. Bar-tailed can easily be confused with the slightly longer-legged and more elegant Black-tailed Godwit, however in flight, Bar-tailed always shows fairly uniform, grey brown upperwings, a long white rump and a finely barred tail (Black-tailed is strongly patterned with black and white wings and tail and a square white rump). Usually seen feeding along outer shoreline of estuaries. Sometimes in large flocks.
Similar Species: Black-tailed Godwit
Call: Harsh/nasal two note 'cewee-cewee'
Diet: Feed along the tidal edge, or in shallow water (up to 15 cm depth). They usually commence feeding on an ebbing tide, and feed continuously for up to 6 hours. Polychaete worms, particularly lugworms, form a large proportion of their diet. On the muddier estuaries, where lugworms may be absent, they take ragworms and bivalves.
Breeding: Breeds in northern Norway, Finland and further to the north and east.
Wintering: Wintering distribution entirely coastal. They are largely confined to estuaries, with largest numbers recorded on sandy estuaries. Small numbers recorded using non-estuarine coastline.
Where to see: Dundalk Bay in County Louth, Dublin Bay in County Dublin, Wexford Harbour & Slobs in County Wexford, Lough Foyle in County Derry and Strangford Lough in County Down support highest numbers (1,500-2,500 birds).