Animal Species:Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwits are the world record holders for non-stop flight: they have been recorded travelling 11,000km from Alaska to New Zealand in only 8 days, flying at an average of more than 50km/h. This journey is also a fantastic weight-loss program, as the birds lose almost half of their body weight along the way. Luckily, once they arrive in Australia, our mudflats are waiting, filled with tasty morsels to help them recuperate.

Bar Tailed Godwit standing in ocean

Bar Tailed Godwit standing in ocean
Photographer: Donald Trounson © Australian Museum

Standard Common Name

Bar-tailed Godwit


  • Bar-tailed Godwits are quite large waders, with females being bigger than males.
  • The Bar-tailed Godwit is mainly mottled brown above and lighter and more uniform buff below.
  • It has dull white underwings, and a long, slightly upturned bill.
  • As the name suggests, the white tail is barred with brown. This is the non-breeding plumage of the Bar-tailed Godwit and is the main phase seen in Australia. The breeding plumage is darker and more rufous, with females duller than males. Young birds resemble non-breeding birds.

Similar Species

Black-tailed Godwit


  • Bar-tailed Godwits arrive in Australia each year in August from breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere.
  • Birds are more numerous in northern Australia.


  • Bar-tailed Godwits inhabit estuarine mudflats, beaches and mangroves.
  • They are common in coastal areas around Australia.
  • They are social birds and are often seen in large flocks and in the company of other waders.


Tens of thousands of birds land in Australia's north-west and move around the coast of Australia, rather than across the land. While most birds leave Australia in April and May, to return to their breeding grounds, some birds (mostly young birds) remain all year round.

Feeding and Diet

  • Bar-tailed Godwits feed on molluscs, worms and aquatic insects.
  • Birds wade through the shallows or over exposed mud and probe their long bills rapidly into the bottom to find food.
  • Feeding parties may number up to 30 or more birds, and include non-breeding migrants and young birds that remain all year round.


Calls include a rapid 'tititi' and a sharp 'kuwit' in alarm.

Mating and reproduction

  • The Bar-tailed Godwit is a non-breeding migrant in Australia.
  • Breeding takes place each year in Scandinavia, northern Asia and Alaska.
  • The nest is a shallow cup in moss, and is either lined with vegetation or is unlined.
  • Both sexes share incubation of the eggs and care for the young.



What does this mean?

Further Reading

  • Pizzey, G. and Knight, F. 1997. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
  • Schodde, R. and Tideman, S.C. (eds) 1990. Reader's Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (2nd Edition). Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Sydney.


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Tags BIBY, bird, birds, godwit, shore birds,