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Thread: Godwit subspecies, Suffolk, UK

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Default Godwit subspecies, Suffolk, UK


    I saw this godwit this morning on my patch along the River Deben between Melton and Woodbridge. I had been scanning them for any colour-ringed birds when this one stuck out immediately. I was wondering if it could be a limosa race black-tailed as opposed to the usual islandica race that occur here. I've never noted one so distinct size wise amongst the 200+ that can occur here.

    It seemed larger overall but size difference was most apparent with longer tibia making it obviously taller and a distinct walking gait. The bill was also longer and a bit thicker at the base. The top of the head was a dark brown colour giving it a capped appearance with a pale supercilium and the orange went from the bottom half of the face down the neck only, stopping at the mantle and the top of the chest. It was white underneath. The mantle was a darker colour with even mottling - more subtle orange fringed with dark centres, not distinct orange/black in summer islandica or plainer grey in winter plumage. The coverts were noticeably paler.

    Unfortunately a few joggers came past and so I missed it when it flew off, I had to step to the edge of the path out of the way. There are a few poor photos taken with my mobile, to try and show height difference between typical islandica and this individual.

    Any thoughts would be welcome.


    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Little Chalfont



    I am struggling with the images but from what I can see, this godwit is a JUVENILE and separating Icelandic from European in this plumage is very difficult indeed and requires very close scrutiny. I have found that both forms are highly variable in size, bill length and bare part colour tones.

    The bird appears from the photographs to be rather orangish on the neck whereas I would expect limosa to be rather grey in this area; furthermore it is feeding on what appears to be intertidal mud, habitat favoured in general by islandica (as opposed to freshwater marshes and grassy fields).

    Very best wishes


  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2008



    Interesting comments on supposed different feeding habitats between these two subspecies. The vast majority of wintering and spring migrant Black-tailed Godwits in Cambridgeshire are of the islandica race (often 3000-5000 birds), and these feed exclusively on freshwater marshes and wet fields. Where does this information come from?

    With regards to the bird photographed in Suffolk. It is certainly a juvenile, and appears to me, as you also suggest, to look more like an islandica bird.

  4. #4
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2008


    Thanks Lee and Mark for your thoughts.

    Yes it was on a tidal estuary and I did wonder if this would be suitable habitat for limosa, but wasn't sure when on migration. I visited this morning but could not relocate it - less godwits about.

    I understand about the variabililty in size and have noted it myself, it was this one was so distinctly taller/larger than about 30 individuals in the vicinity.

    Having looked at the other godwit thread here, with Brian's photos, I can see that the bill base is not thick enough.

    Many thanks,


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