Bar-tailed godwit

Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed godwit feeding on ragworm ©David Tipling/2020VISION

Bar-tailed godwit

Scientific name: Limosa lapponica
The Bar-tailed godwit winters in the UK in the thousands; look for it around estuaries like the Thames and Humber. In spring, the males display arresting breeding plumage, with brick-red heads, necks and chests.

Species information


Length: 33-42cm
Wingspan: 75cm
Weight: 300-370g
Average lifespan: 5 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

July to April


The Bar-tailed godwit is a large, tall wader that breeds in Arctic Scandinavia and Siberia, and migrates here in the thousands, either for the whole winter or en route to wintering grounds further south. Large numbers can be spotted in estuaries such as the Thames, Dee, Humber and Wash.

How to identify

During spring and summer, adult Bar-tailed godwits have dark brown and grey backs and brick-red heads, necks and underparts. In winter, they are streaky-grey above and white below. When they fly, Bar-tailed godwits have a barred tail, and a white wedge on the rump and back; their feet only just stick out past their tail. They are shorter-necked and -legged than Black-tailed godwits, and have a slightly upturned bill.


Can be seen throughout the year, but winters in large numbers on estuaries and around most of the UK's coastline.

Did you know?

During the winter, Bar-tailed Godwits often commute between the Wash on the east coast and the estuaries of North West England, sometimes moving back and forth between the two overnight.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a Living Seas vision, where coastal and marine wildlife thrives alongside the sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.