Birds – Godwits

With a long, slender, very gently recurved bill, which is much longer than the tarsus and entirely smooth and hard at the tip, is a little group of some half a dozen species known as the Godwits (Limosa), which are in some respects related to those last mentioned. As further distinguishing marks it may be noted that the bill is grooved nearly to the tip, while the gape is relatively slight, in fact not extending beyond the base of the culmen, while the feathers on the side of the bill reach forward to about the same point, or a little farther on the chin. The tibia is partially bare and the middle or outer toes connected by a membrane for a short distance; the wings are long and pointed, equaling or slightly exceeding the short, even tail. In several the seasonal difference in coloration is considerable; in all the length is between fifteen and twenty inches.

Of the four North American forms the Marbled Godwit or Brown Marlin (L. fedoa), may be known by having the upper tail-coverts pale cinnamon barred with black, and the axillaries and under wing-coverts cinnamon-rufous; it is about eighteen inches long. It is found throughout North America in general, though rare on the Atlantic coast, breeding from Iowa and Dakota northward to Alaska, and in winter migrating to Guatemala, Yucatan, and Cuba. According to Colonel Goss, ” this bird inhabits the salt and fresh water shores, marshes, and moist ground upon the prairies. It feeds upon crustaceae, insects, worms, larvae, etc., moving about in a horizontal position, picking and probing as it goes. Its flight is easy and well sustained, though not very rapid; in alighting it raises the wings over the back as it touches the ground. These birds as a rule are shy and keep well out of reach.” The eggs are clay-colored or ashy, spotted, blotched, and scrawled with brown. Allied to this, but distinguished at once by the white, dusky-spotted upper tail-coverts, axillars, and under wing-coverts is the Bar-tailed Godwit (L. lapponica) of the northern portion of the Eastern Hemisphere in summer, but wintering in the Mediterranean countries. It frequents the seashore, estuaries, and mud flats, where it probes in the mud and sand for its food of crustaceans, worms, etc. It nests in the interior of Lapland. In eastern Asia and adjacent Alaska its place is taken by the Pacific Godwit (L. l. baueri), known by its paler coloration and more spotted rump; its habits, however, are similar. In North America east of the Rocky Mountains occurs the Hudsonian Godwit (L. hoemastica), which may be known by its uniform black instead of barred tail. This bird makes one of the longest migratory journeys on record, since it rears its young within the Arctic Circle and in winter ranges throughout the whole length of South America. Its Old World counterpart is the Black-tailed Godwit (L. Untosa), distinguished by the two white patches on the wing. It is found in central and northern Europe and is accidental in Greenland.