Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica Scientific name definitions

Brian J. McCaffery and Robert E. Gill
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020

Conservation and Management

Not globally threatened. Currently considered Near Threatened. Population trend of nominate lapponica and W African wintering taymyrensis unknown, but all other populations appear to be declining, menzbieri and baueri rapidly enough to be considered threatened External link .

Effects of Human Activity

Shooting And Trapping

In w. Alaska, indigenous people historically harvested both adults and eggs. Estimates of annual subsistence harvest of "large shorebirds" (either Bar-tailed Godwit and/or Numenius spp.) on Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta from 1994 to 1998 ranged from 200 to 1,900 birds (Wentworth and Seim 1996, Wentworth and Wong 1999). Based on timing and distribution, vast majority of harvest almost certainly Bar-tailed Godwit (BJM). Data suggest harvest is increasing but apparent trend probably result of recent inclusion in survey of single village where shorebird harvest is important. On Alaska Peninsula estuary, high proportion (1-3%) of fall staging birds observed with leg injuries suspected to be result of shooting (REG). Caught for food (perhaps 2,000-3,000/yr) on migration along e. China coast in spring, but proportion of baueri versus menzbieri unknown; harvest thought to be declining (Barter et al. 1997a, Barter et al. 2000).

Pesticides And Other Contaminants/Toxics

No information from North America. Fall migrant Bar-tailed Godwits (L. l. lapponica) ingest and concentrate heavy metals in Netherlands Wadden Sea (Goede 1985, Goede and Voogt 1985). Paradoxically, longevity found in Bar-tailed Godwits and other shorebirds with strong marine attachment hypothesized to come from intake of selenium (Goede 1993). Mortality from oil spills, though less than with other waterbirds, recorded for Bar-tailed Godwits from several oil spills in Europe (Bourne 1968). Among 96 dead godwits on shore of Netherlands Wadden Sea, 8 (8.3%) had oil on plumage (K. Camhuysen unpubl.).

Ingestion Of Plastics, Lead, Etc

No information.

Collisions With Stationary/Moving Structure Or Objects

At Cold Bay, AK, flock of juveniles flew into lighted military radar dome, resulting in death or injury to 12 individuals (Piersma and Gill 1998); similar incidents known at this site (C. Dau pers. comm.). Mortality from collision with power lines reported from New Zealand (Riegen 1999). Nominate lapponica killed at lighthouses during spring migration (Cramp and Simmons 1983).

Fishing Nets

No information.

Degradation Of Habitat

Most habitat of baueri in Alaska apparently secure and relatively unchanged. Breeding habitat of nominate lapponica in Norway, however, severely degraded due to reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) overgrazing and trampling; "ecologically disastrous" habitat changes include drainage and drying of wetlands used for foraging, as well as re-duction of natural vegetative cover (I. Byrkjedal pers. comm.). Local impact of reindeer grazing on godwit habitats in Alaska needs study. Nonbreeding habitat of baueri in Australia and New Zealand afforded varying levels of protection (Riegen 1996, Watkins et al. 1996, Watkins 2000). Species vulnerable due to concentration at a few wetlands in non-breeding season. Habitat loss and degradation of intertidal stopover habitat along e. Asian coast, especially Yellow Sea area, apparently greatest threat to L. lapponica and numerous other waterbirds during migrations between Arctic and Australasia (Barter et al. 1997a, Melville 1997, Wilson and Barter 1998, M. Barter pers. comm.), and may be driving population declines (Yang et al. 2011, Choi et al. 2015). Up to 65 percent of intertidal habitat in the Yellow Sea has been lost over the past 50 years, and more than 1% of remaining habitat is being lost per year to reclamation for agriculture, aquaculture, and other development (Murray et al. 2014). Similar concerns in Europe, where loss and degradation of coastal habitats are widespread; current legislation inadequate to address major threats (Tucker and M. I. Evans 1997).

Disturbance At Nest And Roost Sites; Direct Human/Research Impacts

Incubating birds not known to abandon nests when exposed to routine nest checks (REG); consequence of such actions on adults and nests from potential increased exposure to natural predators not known. Roosting birds quick to take flight when observer near, but will often do same without apparent stimuli. In China, feeding and especially roosting birds increasingly disturbed by activities associated with fishing and shrimp-farming (Barter et al. 2000, M. Barter pers. comm.). Land reclamation, pollution and human disturbance have detrimental effects on feeding conditions. Godwits particularly susceptible to capture myopathy ("leg cramp") if precautions not taken during trapping and banding operations (Green 1980, Minton 1980, Purchase and Minton 1982).


Conservation Status

Not globally threatened, although recently considered Near Threatened. Fully protected throughout most of range (see below), but concern exists for habitat degradation in e. Asia and Scandinavia (see above).

Measures Proposed Or Taken

Since 1918, fully protected in U.S. and Canada under Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Also protected in New Zealand and Australia (Riegen 1996, Watkins et al. 1996). Important staging and wintering areas in France, Portugal and Guinea-Bissau are not yet protected. Other important wintering areas may include sites in Oman, Saudi Arabia and Sumatra. Not considered of conservation concern until 2015.

Effectiveness Of Measures

Unknown and untested.

Recommended Citation

McCaffery, B. J. and R. E. Gill (2020). Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.batgod.01