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.