Mobile bird identification
Bird Field Guide

Bar-Tailed Godwit

  Limosa lapponica
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Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Scolopacidae

Genus:  Limosa

Species: L. lapponica
A typical Bar-Tailed Godwit in winter, the back appears mottled, the eye stripe well defined, and the neck a light buff.
Bar-Tailed Godwit's in winter plumage.
Note the pale eye stripe and slightly upcurved bill. The legs are short when compared to other Godwit's.
Note the plain wings with no wing bars and the barred tail, important points of identification. The Black-Tailed Godwit with which the, Bar-Tailed can be confused, has bold white wing bars and a solid black tail.
Adult Male & Female (Summer)
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The Bar-Tailed Godwit in summer has a chestnut red underside, face and neck. It's back has chestnut edged feathers, whilst it's wings have pale greyish edged feathers. Female birds have slightly duller plumage, however some birds either male or female show little change from their winter plumage, so diagnoses of sex, based on colouration, can be problematic.

In winter the Bar-Tailed Godwit has streaked pale grey-brown and pale buff-brown upperparts. It's bill is long with a fine tip, and slightly upcurved. It has a white stripe above the eye and, has shortish legs for a Limosa.

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Bar-Tailed Godwit in winter Plumage identification
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Bar-Tailed Godwit flying
Adult Male & Female (Winter)
*Bill pink at base
* key ID points
Greenish legs

Pale buff breast

Grey-brown and pale buff-brown upperparts

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Pale eye stripe

*Shortish legs

*No wing bars

*White rump, barred tail
*Long bill, slight upcurve
Bar-Tailed Godwit flying away
Bar-Tailed Godwit in winter Plumage pale bill
Bar-Tailed Godwit in summer Plumage identification
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*Bill pink at base
*Long bill, slight upcurve

*Plain chestnut red underside (No bars)

* key ID points

Dark upperparts, feathers edged chestnut and grey

*Shortish legs

Bar-Tailed Godwit in typical winter plumage
Bar-Tailed Godwit juvenile
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Bar-Tailed Godwit in summer Plumage
This image highlights the Bar-Tailed Godwit's shorter and more rounded appearance. Note that the chestnut-red underside has no dark barring, unlike the Black-Tailed Godwit which has extensive black barring.
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The underparts of a juvenile are a washed buff-brown. Upperparts are dark brown with bright buff edged feathers.
Bar-Tailed Godwit distribution
Winter visitor
Resident bird
Passage Migrant
Summer visitor
General distribution:
Breeds right across almost the entire Arctic fringe, including Alaska, Scandinavia, and Russia. Moves South in winter as far as Australia but many winter further North including the UK.
Nests on open tundra sometimes among scattered trees. On passage and when wintering the favour open mudflats, roosting on nearby grassland at high tide.