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Limosa limosa (Black-tailed godwit) 

Swartstertgriet [Afrikaans]; Grutto [Dutch]; Barge à queue noire [French]; Uferschnepfe [German]; Maçarico-de-bico-direito [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 limosa (Black-tailed godwit) Limosa limosa (Black-tailed godwit) 

Black-tailed godwit, South Africa. [photo Neil Gray ©]

Black-tailed godwit, Norfolk, England. [photo Tristan Bantock ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds in patches from Iceland south to France and east to Manchuria and Siberia, heading south in the non-breeding season to eastern Australia to sub-Saharan Africa (especially within 30° of the equator). It is a rare non-breeding migrant to southern Africa, with several dozen records spread across the region (largely excluding Mozambique). Occurs in wide variety of habitats, generally preferring lake margins, marshes, swamps, irrigated lands with soft substratum and coastal wetlands.

Distribution of Black-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

Arrives in its West African non-breeding grounds in July, arriving a few months later in East Africa and staying until about April. Most southern African records are in the period from December-April; most birds which reach the region are thought to originate from East Africa.


It eats molluscs, polychaete worms, plant material and fly larvae, doing most of its foraging in deeper water (5-10cm) than other waders, pecking the soft mud before probing deeply once it has located prey. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • invertebrates
    • molluscs
    • polychaete worms
    • fly larvae (Diptera)
  • plants
    • seeds
      • Oryza sativa (Cultivated rice)
      • Oryza breviligulata (Wild rice)
    • seeds and tubers of other water plants


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.