New reports on ruru nesting and Island conservation

Date posted: 02-Oct-2017

Two new reports have been added to the website. The first gives details of a summer students..

2018 calendars now available

Date posted: 27-Sep-2017

Our latest calendar, beautifully illustrated with images taken on the Island, is now available fo..

Guided walks for photographers

Date posted: 21-Jun-2017

For a wonderful day of wildlife photography please join us on Tiritiri Matangi Island for a Ph..

Ferry discounts for Supporters

Date posted: 18-May-2017

Tiritiri Matangi Island, the perfect winter's day trip. The birds are at their best, warm up w..

More kiwi for the Island

Date posted: 04-Apr-2017

In 1993 and 1995, sixteen little spotted kiwi were released on Tiritiri Matangi Island. The ma..

2017 Photo Competition

Date posted: 22-Mar-2017

It is that time of year again when we are looking for entries for our photo competition (and phot..

The 2017 concert

Date posted: 05-Feb-2017

This year's concert promises to be another wonderful and unique experience. Click here (/concert-..

Shorebird Film Festival at Devonport

Date posted: 26-Oct-2016

Click here (/miscellaneous documents/DevWaderFilms.jpg) for details of a forthcoming film festival c..

Extra Dawn Chorus Trip

Date posted: 20-Oct-2016

Stop Press: Extra Dawn Chorus trip now scheduled for Thursday 27th October 2016. ..

2016 AGM

Date posted: 06-Sep-2016

The 2016 AGM was held at the Kohia Centre at 7:30 pm on Monday 19th September. Click here (/..

Eastern bar-tailed godwit

Scientific name:

 Limosa lapponica baueri

Maori name:

 Kuaka

 

 

Conservation status

 Migrant shorebird

Mainland status:

 Widely distributed round coast in summer

Size:

 39-41 cm, 300-350 g

Breeding:

May-August in Alaska   

Diet:

Marine and terrestrial invertebrates 

Total population:

 c. 90,000 during NZ summer

The eastern bar-tailed godwit is a migrant shorebird that breeds in Alaska and spends the northern winter (our summer) in eastern Australia and New Zealand.

It is a tall wader, streaked brown above and on underwings, with pale breast and belly in non-breeding plumage. It has a long, slightly up-turned bill, which is pink at the base and black at the tip. In breeding plumage the bird is more colourful (see photo below left), a warmer, more richly-marked brown above and bright rufous on neck, breast and belly. Birds can be seen in both breeding and non-breeding plumages in New Zealand, and at all stages in between, but most of their time here is spent in non-breeding plumage.

Godwits are famous for their long-distance migrations, which can involve non-stop flights of thousands of kilometres. Their arrival in and departure from New Zealand has come to symbolise the passing of the seasons, and 'farewell' and 'welcome' ceremonies are held at some locations.

They feed on marine and terrestrial invertebrates, including worms, molluscs and crustaceans, probing in mud and soft ground with their long bills. For this reason they favour mudflats in estuaries and inlets as their winter habitat and tend to congregate around the New Zealand coast wherever such habitats occur. 

They are not normally seen around Tiritiri Matangi because the Island has none of their favoured habitat, but they can be seen at other locations around the Hauraki Gulf.

As a long-distance migrant, the bar-tailed godwit needs protection in several different countries - New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, and its refuelling sites in China and on some Pacific Islands. Only concerted international cooperation can ensure the safety of this bird throughout its range.

Discover more about the eastern bar-tailed godwit at New Zealand Birds Online.

Photographs: Martin Sanders ©

Reference: Heather, B. and Robertson, H., The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, Viking 2005.