Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica (Linnaeus, 1758) BA BATGO 5340
Family: Charadriiformes > Scolopacidae

Bar-tailed Godwit, Graham Catley

The Bar-tailed Godwit is a rather plain, but quite large wader, more or less confined to marine habitats around Britain’s coasts.

Birds arrive from late summer and on into early winter from their arctic breeding grounds, favouring low-lying coasts with a muddy or sandy substrate. Their winter dress is pale greys and browns and they have a long, very slightly upturned bill, which is pink at the base.

The Wetland Bird Survey estimates a wintering population in Britain approaching 30,000 birds with two thirds spending the winter months on The Wash in eastern England. The tideline is the best place to observe Bar-tailed Godwits feeding, and at high tide they gather in tight flocks to roost.


Bar-tailed Godwit identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Bar-tailed Godwit.

related video

Identifying Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit. Photograph by Tom Wallis

Godwits are large, elegant waders and relatively common in the right habitats at certain times of year. The two commonly encountered species, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit, should be reasonably straightforward to separate, although their eponymous tail markings may not always be the easiest feature to use! Some birds such as juveniles or out of context lone birds can prove more problematic, however, and this workshop will help you to confidently identify both species.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Bar-tailed Godwit, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Flight call

Alarm call

Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.




Bar-tailed Godwits winter around the coast of Britain & Ireland, on suitable low-lying shores. They are largely absent from the north and west Scotland and elsewhere where there are sections of steep cliff coastline. Largest concentrations are associated with the major British and Irish estuaries, plus the low-lying shorelines of Northumberland, the Outer Hebrides and Orkney.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Although there have been many winter-range gains in Britain since the 1980s, most are in marginal low-density areas such as Shetland, west Scotland, west Ireland, Wales and southwest England and may correspond to only small changes in the number of birds.


Although mostly a winter visitor, some Bar-tailed Godwits remain in summer on larger estuaries and there is a pronounced peak in autumn migration.

Weekly occurence of Bar-tailed Godwit from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Bar-tailed Godwit ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Bar-tailed Godwit, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Cearra-ghob
Welsh: Rhostog Gynffonfraith
Catalan: tètol cuabarrat
Czech: brehouš rudý
Danish: Lille Kobbersneppe
Dutch: Rosse Grutto
Estonian: vöötsaba-vigle
Finnish: punakuiri
French: Barge rousse
German: Pfuhlschnepfe
Hungarian: kis goda
Icelandic: Lappajaðrakan
Irish: Guilbneach Stríocearrach
Italian: Pittima minore
Latvian: sarkana puskuitala
Lithuanian: laplandinis griciukas
Norwegian: Lappspove
Polish: szlamnik (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: fuselo
Slovak: brehár hrdzavý
Slovenian: progastorepi kljunac
Spanish: Aguja colipinta
Swedish: myrspov
Folkname: Yarwhelp, Barwit


Interpretation and scientific publications about Bar-tailed Godwit from BTO scientists.


Peer-reviewed papers
Avocet - Amy Lewis

Consequences of population change for local abundance and site occupancy of wintering waterbirds

Wavering Waterbirds

2017 | Méndez, V., Gill, J.A., Alves, J.A., Burton, N.H.K. & Davies, R.G.Diversity and Distributions

Protected sites are assigned based on population statistics for vulnerable and endangered species. This new study using WeBS data shows that changes in population size can affect local abundance, and thus influence whether or not key targets are met for site protection.

Peer-reviewed papers
Bar-tailed Godwit, by Graham Catley / BTO

Contrasting habitat use between and within Bar-tailed Godwit and Curlew wintering on the Wash, England

Adjacent habitats vital for intertidal waders

2024 | Pell, R.J., Clark, J.A. & Robinson, R.A.Wader Study

A new study has revealed contrasting habitat use between and within Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlews wintering on the Wash.

Links to more information from

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