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Alaskan Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica

Key facts

    • 11,000km - distance the Godwit travels non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand
    • It is believed the Maori discovered New Zealand after following them on their southward migration

      Latest Reports

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      Recent reports:

      Latest Comments

      "We are off to the Alaska in May/June to visit a relation, that flew north! We will be in Anchorage, Prince William sound, Kenai and Kodiak during our stay, are we likely to see the Gowits? Will they h…"

      Wendy

      Get in touch if you've got any comments or questions on the Alaskan Bar-tailed Godwit.

      Follow the Godwit migration from the start

      The migration of the Godwit is one of WOTM’s longest. This year we tagged 9 Godwits with the aim of following them. So, what happened to them?

      You can follow the whole journey starting with this first report on the Alaskan Bar-tailed Godwit migration of 2008.

      Species information

      Holder of the record for the longest non-stop migration in the world, the mysteries of this extraordinary bird are gradually being solved with use of some of the lightest satellite tags yet developed. World On The Move will be following tagged individuals on their northward migration.

      The Migration

      From New Zealand to Alaska via the Yellow Sea in the spring. From Alaska to New Zealand non-stop in the autumn.

      Time and Distance

      A round trip of some 25,000 km with the return leg coming in at 11,500 km non-stop in 8 days.

      Energy

      The birds go on a binge, a feeding frenzy, before their long haul flights until up to 55 per cent of their weight is fat. They then reduce the size of their gut, kidney and liver by up to 25 per cent to compensate for the added weight. Obese with fuel, freed from the baggage of a heavy gut, the Godwits are ready for the air. The scientists think that the birds reshuffle proteins in their bodies before they set out and that this allows them to reduce the size of their food-processing organs.

      Reason for Migration

      In search of the best feeding grounds. There is very little appropriate habitat for them between the extreme ends of the migration.

      Conservation

      70-100,000 Bar-tailed Godwits breed across western Alaska, making the entire population vulnerable. Their northbound migration stopover sites in Asia face some of the heaviest reclamation pressure in the world.

      What happened in 2008?

      The Pacific Shorebird Migration Project tagged 9 Godwits in New Zealand in March and were able to track them until October when the batteries in their transmitters ran out. The northward journey of the Bar-tailed Godwits began in mid-March and included a several-weeks-long stopover at coastal sites in China and Korea on the Yellow Sea. Unfortunately, we weren't able to follow all the tagged individuals as a few of them didn't complete the arduous migration and some of the transmitters failed.

      Nevertheless, at the end of May we discovered that 2 male Godwits had reached their breeding grounds on the Yukon Delta in Alaska where they spent most of June and July. They were there to mate but from the data collected it seems only one of the males was successful.

      We were hoping that we would be able to follow their southward migration back to New Zealand in order to reveal whether these Godwits would also complete the longest non-stop flight of some 11,500 km but sadly the batteries in their transmitters died on us. However by October those tagged Godwits had been spotted back in Miranda, New Zealand.

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