Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica Scientific name definitions

Brad M. Walker, Nathan R. Senner, Chris S. Elphick, and Joanna Klima
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated October 21, 2011

Conservation and Management

Effects of Human Activity

Shooting And Trapping

Historically, heavy hunting on wintering grounds and in North America was thought to have contributed to population declines (Wetmore Wetmore 1926c, Wetmore 1927b). Hunting remains in some areas of South and Central America, but its prevalence and impact are unknown (NS, unpubl.).

Pesticides And Other Contaminants/Toxins

No information.

Degradation Of Habitat

Known threats on breeding grounds are restricted to a local scale. In Alaska, development for oil and gas production in Cook Inlet is perhaps the greatest threat, with potential for disturbance, contamination, and elimination of food supply (Gill and Tibbitts 1999). In the Churchill region of Manitoba, breeding areas have been changed locally, severely in places, owing to overgrazing by Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) and Snow Geese (Chen caerulescens), which remove cover used by nesting shorebirds and alter habitat conditions (JK); these increased goose populations likely result from improved feeding conditions on nonbreeding grounds caused by humans. Churchill is also home to a likely human-aided Common Raven (Corvus corax) population that takes a heavy toll on godwit and other shorebird nests (NS unpubl.).

On the Mackenzie Delta, NWT, a proposed gas pipeline and large-scale drilling infrastructure is also of major concern. Loss of wetland sites in the Great Plains may have adverse effects by limiting options for stopover during spring migration. On the wintering grounds, human disturbance, especially on Isla Chiloé, Chile, and the increased infrastructure involved with the burgeoning aquaculture industry are of immediate concern (Senner 2010).

Disturbance At Nest And Roost Sites

Nests are difficult to find, and disturbance is probably low in most cases. Disturbance at roosting sites is of major concern. Coastal development and an increasing aquaculture industry are both bringing more people (and their dogs) in contact with formerly remote wintering sites. On Isla Chiloé in particular roosting sites are frequently disturbed by human activities. The ultimate energetic and population-level impacts of these activities are not known directly for godwits, but have been outlined well in other studies (Gill et al. 2001).

Direct Human/Research Impacts

No information, but most current research is noninvasive and directed at a very small proportion of the population, so effects are likely to be insignificant. See also Behavior: predation, above, for reactions to humans.


Conservation Status

Early in the twentieth century assumed to be close to extinction (e.g., Wetmore 1927b, Bent 1927), but this apparent rarity was due in part to ignorance of key breeding, migration, and wintering sites (Hagar 1966). Current population size thought to be stable (Morrison et al. 1994a, Morrison et al. 2006, Senner 2010), but monitoring data are lacking. Nonetheless, probably one of North America's most vulnerable shorebird species because of relatively small global population, small and fragmented breeding distribution, and high potential for catastrophic events that could affect a large proportion of the population during the non-breeding season. Ranked as a shorebird species of high conservation concern (Brown et al. 2000b) and placed on the WatchList created by National Audubon Society and Partners in Flight (Muehter 1998).

Measures Proposed And Taken

Since 1927, fully protected in U.S. and Canada under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Senner and Howe 1984). Identified by the American Ornithologists' Union's Committee on Bird Protection as deserving “complete protection” (i.e., even scientific collecting to be done only under special permit), due to small breeding range and population size (Allen et al. 1944).

In North America, a few of the important migration staging areas (Quill Lakes, SK; and Cheyenne Bottoms, KS) are included in Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Also in this network are Bahía San Sebastián in Argentina, Bahía Lomas in Chile, Lagoa de Peixe in Brazil, and, newly, Isla Chiloé in Chile where a large proportion of the global population winters. Additional sites that hold important numbers of Hudsonian Godwits have been proposed for inclusion within the network or for recognition under the Ramsar convention. These include: in Ontario, west coast of James Bay and Pen I. in Hudson Bay; in the Prairie Provinces, Churchill area, Nelson/Hayes River area on the coast of Hudson Bay, Oak Hammock Marsh, and Burke and Porter Lakes; and Cook Inlet in Alaska (Morrison and Ross 1989a, Morrison et al. 1995b, Gill and Tibbitts 1999). In South America, only Bahía Samborombón remains unrecognized by WHSRN (although it has been recognized by RAMSAR) amongst the major wintering sites.

Currently only the population on Isla Chiloé is tracked by any monitoring program -- a recent development (Andres, Johnson, Senner unpubl.). Regular surveys at key staging sites along the coast of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Upper Cook Inlet, Hudson and James bays, and at Quill Lakes, would provide valuable information about conditions during migration and data on the status of different breeding populations.

In addition to recent monitoring efforts on Isla Chiloé, Chile, that region is taking the lead in godwit conservation. An island-wide conservation plan was completed in 2010, featuring godwits as one of the focal species. Efforts in the near future will include the purchase of marine concessions to keep the near-shore waters in important bays free of aquaculture development, the purchase of key roosting and feeding sites, and a large-scale effort to educate islanders about the importance of their intertidal habitats.This effort could provide a model for other site-based conservation actions in South America.

Effectiveness Of Measures

No information.

Recommended Citation

Walker, B. M., N. R. Senner, C. S. Elphick, and J. Klima (2020). Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.hudgod.01