Bar-Tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica 

Conservation Status

Listed marine and migratory (Bonn, CAMBA, JAMBA, ROKAMBA)

Species and status overview

The Bar-tailed Godwit occupies coastal habitats such as large intertidal sandflats, banks, mudflats, estuaries, inlets, harbours, coastal lagoons and bays. It is threatened by habitat alteration as a result of human development as it depends on the coastline for feeding and roosting.

The Bar-tailed Godwit usually forages near the edge of water or in shallow water, mainly in tidal estuaries and harbours, and has a preference for soft mud often with sea grasses.

The Bar-tailed Godwit usually roosts on sandy beaches, sandbars, spits and also in saltmarsh.

The Bar-tailed Godwit has been sighted locally in many areas including (but not limited to)

  • Airlie Beach
  • Blacks Beach
  • Bucasia
  • Carmilla Beach
  • Cannonvale
  • Cape Hillsborough
  • Cape Palmerston
  • Midge Point
  • Pioneer River
  • Reliance Creek
  • Offshore Islands including Whitsunday and Hayman islands


The Bar-tailed Godwit is a large wader, 37-39 cm long and weighing 250-450 g, with a long neck with a very long upturned bill that has a dark tip and pinkish base. All plumages have a uniform upper pattern, with a dark back and upper rump. It is distinguishable from other Godwits by the dark barring on the lower white rump, upper tail and lining of the underwing. Females are larger with longer bills than males and a duller breeding plumage.

The species has been recorded in the coastal areas of all Australian states, and it is widespread in the Torres Strait, and along the east and south-east coast of Queensland. The Bar-tailed Godwit is mainly carnivorous with a diet consisting of worms, molluscs, crustaceans, insects and some plant material, and generally feeding no more than one to three km from their roost.

The Bar-tailed Godwit leaves Alaska and east Siberia during July–September, passing through the Philippines between August-October and arriving in Australia from August-November. The return migration begins from early February.

When they are not in Australia, the Bar-tailed Godwit can be found breeding in Scandinavia, Russia and/or Alaska.

Shoalwater Bay and Broadsound to the south of the region are listed as one of seven Australian sites of international importance for this species. A site is considered important if occupied by more than 1% of the total population.

Conservation concerns

With strong reliance on coastal roosts, the Bar-tailed godwit is likely to be heavily impacted by habitat disturbance and destruction from coastal development.

Known threats include

  • Habitat loss and degradation reduces the availability of foraging and roosting sites which affects the ability of the birds to build up the energy stores required for migration
  • Human disturbance of roosts from activities such as fishing, boating, dogs, noise and lighting
  • Direct mortality as a result of human activity around migration pathways of shorebirds

What can I do?

  • Protect roosts from further disturbance
  • Maintain or revegetate coastal and estuarine vegetation
  • Maintain water quality to reduce impacts on prey species
  • Keep dogs on a leash in known nesting habitat

Photo credit Queensland Government

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