Friday, 29 October 2010

Black-tailed godwit

Limosa limosa

Photo by Pedro Lourenço (Birds of the World)

Common name:
black-tailed godwit (en); maçarico-de-bico-direito (pt); barge à queue noir (fr); aguja colinegra (es); uferschnepfe (de)

Order Charadriiformes
Family Scolopacidae

Breeds in the northern temperate areas of the Paleartic. There are three geographicaly segregated subspecies: L. l. islandica breeds in Iceland, L. l. limosa breeds in northern Europe, from The Netherlands in the west to near Russia, and L. l. melanuroides breeds in southern Siberia. Wintering populations in western and south-western Europe, in West Africa and in southern Asia and Australia.

A medium-sized wader, the black-tailed godwit ranges 40-42 cm in lenght and has a wingspan of 70-82 cm. The females are larger and longer-billed than males. Males weigh up to 280 g, females weigh up to 340 g.

Traditionaly bred in wet pastures, marshes and bog. Currently breeds mostly in agricultural meadows. During winter the subspecies are segregated in terms of habitat. L. l. islandica and L. l. melanuroides are mostly present in salty habitats like estuarine mudflats, saltmarshes and saltpans, while L. l. limosa used mostly freshwater habitats including marshes, floodplains and rice fields.

The diet varies depending on the habitat. In estuarine areas feeds mostly on macroinvertebrates, namely bivalves and polychaetes. In fresh water habitats feeds on diferent invertebrates, but also seeds and particularly rice grain when foraging on rice fields. On the breeding habitats feeds on earthworms and insects.

Starts breeding at 2 years old and forms stable couples that can last for several years. Usually lays 4 eggs in April-June. The eggs are incubated by both parents and hatch after 25 days. The chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching and are immediately able to feed themselves, but rely on their parents for protection from extreme weather and predators until fledging, 3-4 weeks after hatching.

IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 630.000-800.000 individuals. Different populations have different trends, but overall the species is estimated to be have declined 25% in the last 2 decades, mostly due to habitat loss and degradation through agricultural intensification and wetland drainage. Hunting and water pollution are also significant threats.

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