Bar-tailed Godwit – 2020

Limosa lapponica – RHOSTOG GYNFFONFRTH – Passage migrant and winter visitor

The Bar-tailed Godwit breeds in Arctic and sub-arctic habitats from northern Norway through Siberia to western Alaska. (European Atlas 1997). Ringing recovery data suggest that birds passing though, or wintering in, the UK have come from northern FennoScandia and western Siberia. Of these, three birds ringed in Norway have been seen in Wales, two of them in mid-winter. The third was a migrating adult, ringed in southern Norway in September 1950, and recovered in Pembrokeshire 21 days later.

Large numbers of breeding birds stop on either the Waddenzee coast or the large UK estuaries to moult in July-August. Juveniles follow in September. While many birds do stay in the UK for winter, a good proportion move on to the west coast of France, and some at least as far as the west African coast.

This species is generally less likely to be found inland than Black-tailed Godwit, but uses a wider range of coastal habitats including sandy shores, as well as muddy estuaries as far upstream as Boulston on the Cleddau.

This map was produced by the West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre using data collected between November and February for the BTO Atlas 2007-11, with additional data collected in 2011-12 winter to fill gaps in coverage.

When can they be seen?

The winter atlas sightings on the map above were made between November and February. However, Bar-tailed Godwits are more often seen on migration. The following graph uses records from BirdTrack since 2008 to show a wider period of sightings. (Note that this is the number of sightings, NOT the number of birds, so it includes records of birds that are present but not counted).

There are few records between 8th June and 17th August (weeks 24-33), but sightings are much more frequent in April-May (spring migration) and September-October (autumn migration).

Highest counts were 158 at Kilpaison in February 2018, and 133 on Pembroke River in December 2017. Very few other counts have exceeded 50 individuals. See also Bar-tailed Godwit 1994.

Wetland Bird Survey

WeBS counts provide a monthly snapshot of water-birds across the country. This graph shows the maximum count in Pembrokeshire each winter since 1982. Numbers are generally erratic, both from month to month, and year to year. The high count for 1988-89 was in September, although numbers did stay relatively high through that winter. Counts elsewhere in Wales were also generally above average at that time.

The total maximum count is calculated by adding up the counts for all sites for each month that season. The maximum may fall in any month between September and March.

Annie Haycock (BBS & WeBS local organiser)


BALMER D, GILLINGS S, CAFFREY B, SWANN B, DOWNIE I, FULLER R. 2014. Bird Atlas 2007-11: The Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland.  HarperCollins.  UK

HBW – Handbook of the Birds of the World

LACK P. 1986.  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

LOVEGROVE R, WILLIAMS G, WILLIAMS I. 1994.  Birds in Wales. T & A. D. Poyser, London

Pembrokeshire Bird Reports

WERNHAM. C, TOMS. M, MARCHANT. J, CLARK. J, SIRIWARDENA. G, BAILLIE. S. 2002. The Migration Atlas, Movements of the birds of Britain and Ireland, T & A. D. Poyser, London

More about the Bar-tailed Godwit in Pembrokeshire