Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica

bird bird

Bar-tailed Godwit
Image: Peter Fuller
Source: Peter Fuller

Type: bird

Bar-tailed Godwit Bar-tailed Godwit
Image: Peter Fuller
Source: Peter Fuller

Victorian Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

Migratory birds are at risk at any stage of their migration. The Agreement on the Conservation of African–Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) seeks to coordinate international efforts to protect migrating birds and their habitats. Bar-tailed Godwits are included on their list of target species. They are at risk of wetland degradation across their range, as well as disruption to their arctic breeding grounds from climate change.



Bar-tailed Godwits are carnivores.

They eat molluscs, worms, insects, other invertebrates.


Bar-tailed Godwit relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a sparrow and a cat.

190–630 g
37–45 cm
70–80 cm

Amazing Bar-tailed Godwits

Bar-tailed Godwits are medium-sized migratory wading birds. Scientific tracking of individual birds showed that this species migrates further without stopping than any other bird. When they reach Australia, most remain in the north of the country, but some travel around the coast to Victoria.

They have features shared by many wading birds – long legs, long beaks, and subdued colouration. Bar-tailed Godwits are so named because their white tails are banded with dark markings. Their non-breeding plumage is otherwise mottled brown, with paler undersides. The red breeding plumage of the males is rarely seen in Australia, since breeding occurs in the northern hemisphere.

The long, slightly upturned bill of these birds is useful for hunting their prey in mud and shallow water. They prod their beaks repeatedly into the mud, extracting worms and other small animals. Their beaks are rubbery and flexible at the tip so they can be opened just at the end when feeding.

Bar-tailed Godwits breed in the arctic tundra of Siberia and Alaska. Both parents incubate, brood and rear the young. They leave the southern hemisphere in March and arrive in breeding grounds in June. In August they fly south again. Their amazing migratory path follows the East Asian–Australian Flyway, a route shared by about 55 wading birds. Individuals are often spotted en route in Asia.

Did You Know?

Bar-tailed Godwits:

  • make the longest non-stop flight of any bird
  • travel over 11 000 km between Alaska and New Zealand without stopping to feed
  • have red breeding plumage among males only


Bar-tailed Godwits are found across both hemispheres from Alaska and China to Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, they are primarily found in the north, inhabiting coastal mudflats, shorelines, estuaries, beaches and mangrove swamps.


Other animals from the Victorian Coastal Wetlands

Red-necked StintEastern Curlew