home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Limosa lapponica (Bar-tailed godwit) 

Bandstertgriet [Afrikaans]; Rosse grutto [Dutch]; Barge hudsonienne [French]; Amerikanische Uferschnepfe [German]; Fuselo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Scolopacidae

Limosa lapponica (Bar-tailed godwit)  Limosa limosa (Black-tailed godwit) 

Bar-tailed godwit, Sweden. [photo Kristian Svensson ]

Bar-tailed godwit flock, West Coast National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds along the margin of the Arctic Ocean, from northern Scandinavia to west Alaska, migrating in the non-breeding season to the area from Britain to Australasia south to the coast of Africa down to southern Africa. Here it is uncommon to locally common along the coastline of the region, especially central and northern Namibia, while more scare further inland. It generally prefers estuaries, coastal lagoons and sheltered embayments, occasionally moving to sandy beaches, coastal sewage works and commercial salt pans.

Distribution of Bar-tailed godwit in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

A non-breeding migrant, probably undertaking the longest non-stop journey of any terrestrial bird, as one subspecies travels 11 600 km from Alaska to New Zealand. It starts arriving in southern Africa in October, with numbers peaking in November before departing in March and April.


It mainly eats polychaete worms, molluscs, crustaceans and fish fry, doing most of its foraging in flocks, walking through mud or shallow water, probing with its long bill in search of prey.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.