E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Limosa lapponica (Linnaeus, 1758)
Bar-Tailed Godwit
Family: Scolopacidae
Photo of species

© Rick Toochin  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #4729)

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Distribution of Limosa lapponica in British Columbia
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Status and Occurrence of Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) in British Columbia

by Rick Toochin

Read the full article with photos on our Vagrant Bird page.

Introduction and Distribution

The Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica) is a large shorebird species that breeds from Scandinavia to Siberia and winters from Western Europe to Australia (Hayman et al. 1986). There are 3 recognized subspecies of the Bar-tailed Godwit. The nominate subspecies of the Bar-tailed Godwit is called (Limosa l. lapponica) and is found breeding from Norway, east through Arctic Russia to the Ob and Yenisey River mouths (Hayman et al. 1986, O’Brien et al. 2006). These birds migrate south to spend the winter from coastal areas of Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal, as well as along the Mediterranean coastline, south to coastal regions of both eastern and western Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the western shorelines of India (Hayman et al. 1986, O’Brien et al. 2006). The second subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwit is called (Limosa l. menzbieri) and is found breeding from the Taymyr Peninsula in central arctic Russia to the Chukchi Peninsula in Siberia, and migrates to south to spend the winter in northwestern Australia and New Zealand, and apparently parts of eastern Africa (McCaffery and Gill 2001). The third subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwit is called (Limosa l. baueri) and is found breeding in eastern Siberia to western Alaska, and migrates south to winter in coastal regions of southern China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia, throughout south-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand (Hayman et al. 1986, Paulson 2005).

In North America, almost all of the east coast records of Bar-tailed Godwit refer to the nominate subspecies (Limosa l. lapponica) (Dunn and Alderfer 2011). These records extend along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland and Labrador to Florida (McCaffery and Gill 2001, Dunn and Alderfer 2011). Anywhere along the east coast of North America, the Bar-tailed Godwit is considered a casually occurring species (McCaffery and Gill 2001, Dunn and Alderfer 2011). On the west coast of North America, almost all records of the Bar-tailed Godwit refer to the subspecies (Limosa l. baueri) (McCaffery and Gill 2001, Dunn and Alderfer 2011). This subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwit breeds in North America in Alaska with about 100,000 individuals, and is found along the North Slope, the Seward Peninsula and south in the Yukon River mouth (McCaffery and Gill 2001, Woodley 2009). The entire Bar-tailed Godwit population of Alaska leaves the breeding grounds and flies back to Asia to their wintering grounds (Woodley 2009). Recently through satellite tracking, it was discovered that these Bar-tailed Godwits make an epic non-stop flight of 11,680 km from Alaska over the Pacific Ocean straight to New Zealand to reach their wintering grounds (Woodley 2009). These birds are prone to weather displacement, and there are many records of this subspecies south of Alaska, along the west coast of North America, in the spring, summer and fall months (Woodley 2009). It is possible that a small number might winter somewhere in the Americas, but this is yet unproven (Woodley 2009).

In California, the Bar-tailed Godwit is still a review species by the California Bird Records Committee with at least 28 accepted state records (Hamilton et al. 2007). In Oregon, this species is a rare, but increasingly regular visitor, with over 20 accepted records by the Oregon Rare Bird Committee (OFO 2012). In Washington State, the Bar-tailed Godwit has over 50 accepted records by the Washington Bird Records Committee, and is no longer a review species for the state (WBRC 2012). In British Columbia, the Bar-tailed Godwit is a rare regular migrant and has over 60 Provincial records with one known record of an adult breeding plumaged bird believed to be of the subspecies (Limosa l. menzbieri) coming from Blaine Washington and nearby Boundary Bay in Delta, British Columbia (Wahl et al. 2005, Toochin et al. 2014, see Table 1). South of Alaska, there are no records of Bar-tailed Godwit away from the west coast of North America (McCaffery and Gill 2001). There are a few inland records for the Bar-tailed Godwit in North America with 2 photographed records from the Yukon Territory, and one record from the North-west-Territories (McCaffery and Gill 2001).

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeSNAAccidentalNot Listed
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

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General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2024-05-24 10:21:50 AM]
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