Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica Scientific name definitions

Brad M. Walker, Nathan R. Senner, Chris S. Elphick, Joanna Klima, and Gabriela Contreras
Version: 1.1 — Published February 9, 2024

Conservation and Management

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Early in the twentieth century, the Hudsonian Godwit was assumed to be close to extinction (e.g., 92, 31), but this apparent rarity was due in part to ignorance of key breeding, migration, and non-breeding sites (2). Current population size is thought to be stable (177, 173, 109), but monitoring data are lacking. Nonetheless, this is probably one of North America's most vulnerable shorebird species because of the 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. The Hudsonian Godwit is ranked as a shorebird species of high conservation concern (178) and placed on the WatchList created by National Audubon Society and Partners in Flight (179). In Chile, this godwit is included in the Hunting Law (D.S. No. 5/1998 of the Ministry of Agriculture in Chile), classified as beneficial for forestry and livestock activities, and therefore its hunting or capture is forbidden (180).

Effects of Human Activity

Habitat Loss and Degradation

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 (97). In the Churchill region of Manitoba, breeding areas have been changed locally, severely in places, owing to overgrazing by flocks of Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and Snow Goose (Anser 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human-aided Common Raven (Corvus corax) population that takes a heavy toll on godwit and other shorebird nests (NRS, unpublished data).

On the Mackenzie Delta, Northwest Territories, 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 non-breeding grounds, human disturbance, especially on Isla Chiloé, Chile, and the increased infrastructure involved with the burgeoning aquaculture industry are of immediate concern (109).

Shooting and Trapping

Historically, heavy hunting on non-breeding grounds and in North America was thought to have contributed to population declines (37, 92). Hunting remains in some areas of South and Central America, but its prevalence and impact are unknown (NRS, unpublished data).

Pesticides and Other Contaminants/Toxins

No information.

Disturbance at Nest and Roost Sites

Hudsonian Godwit nests are difficult to find, and disturbance is probably low in most cases. Disturbance at roosting sites is of major concern. Coastal development and increasing aquaculture industry are both bringing more people (and their dogs) in contact with formerly remote non-breeding 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 (97).

Direct Human/Research Impacts

A study by Navedo et al. (181) assessed the effects of human presence regarding the density and foraging patterns of the Hudsonian Godwit on Chiloé Island, showing that densities and time spent foraging were higher in undisturbed areas. The presence of people, mostly seaweed gatherers accompanied by dogs, is the most likely factor explaining the reduction in density and foraging activity of godwits observed during low tide in disturbed bays (181). Therefore, the increasing level of human disturbance associated with unregulated recreational or economic activities may represent an important threat during migratory processes (181). Most current research is noninvasive and directed at a very small proportion of the population, so effects are likely to be insignificant. See also Predation, for reactions to humans.


Conservation Areas

In North America, a few of the important migration staging areas (Quill Lakes, Saskatchewan; and Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas) are included in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). 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 spends the non-breeding season. 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, the west coast of James Bay and Pen Island in Hudson Bay; in the Prairie Provinces, the Churchill area, Nelson/Hayes River area on the coast of Hudson Bay, Oak Hammock Marsh, and Burke and Porter Lakes; and in Alaska, Cook Inlet (78, 122, 97). In South America, only Bahía Samborombón remains unrecognized by WHSRN (although it has been recognized by RAMSAR) amongst the major non-breeding sites. In Chile, some of the sites are legally protected by the government under the category of Nature Sanctuary, among which are: Hualpén Peninsula - Lenga wetland, Punta Pelluco Fossil Forest, Maullín wetlands (Las Lajas, Lepihué, La Pasada, Laguna Quenuir bajo, Amortajado), Coastal wetland and Laguna Quilo, Quinchao Island (Quinchao Bay, Curaco de Vélez, Chullec, La Planchada, Achao) and Bahía Lomas.

Conservation Measures and Habitat Management

Since 1927, the Hudsonian Godwit is fully protected in the U.S. and Canada under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (182). 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 (1). In Chile, it is not currently classified under the Chilean Endangered Species Act.

Currently, only the population on Isla Chiloé is tracked by monitoring programs -- a recent development (Andres, Johnson, Senner, unpublished data). 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, J. Klima, and G. Contreras (2024). Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica), version 1.1. In Birds of the World (N. D. Sly, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.hudgod.01.1