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 salt marsh.

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 plumage has 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 under-wing. Females are larger than males and have longer bills with 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 feeds no more than one to three kilometres 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 including 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

Return to Species & Ecosystems