Black-tailed godwit

Black-tailed Godwit

©Chris Gomersall/2020VISION

Black-tailed Godwit in summer plumage

©Richard Steel/2020VISION

Black-tailed Godwit in flight

©David Tipling/2020VISION

Black-tailed godwit

Scientific name: Limosa limosa
The Black-tailed godwit is a rare breeding bird in the UK that has suffered from dramatic declines. It can most easily be spotted around the coast in winter and at inland wetlands when on migration.

Species information


Length: 36-44cm
Wingspan: 76cm
Weight: 280-340g
Average lifespan: 18 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Red under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. Listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

January to December


A tall, elegant wader, the Black-tailed godwit breeds in wet grasslands, and winters on coastal estuaries and marshes, and at inland shallow waters. A sociable bird, it forms large flocks when feeding, probing the mud with its bill for invertebrate-prey. Black-tailed godwits form monogamous pairs that can last for 25 years. Every year, faithful couples will arrive at their breeding grounds within three days of each other, mate and raise their chicks together.

How to identify

During spring and summer, adult Black-tailed godwits have greyish backs, white bellies and brick-orange heads, necks and chests. In winter, they are grey above and white below. When they fly, Black-tailed godwits display a black tail, a white rump and broad, white wingbars; their feet stick out well beyond their tail. They are taller than the similar Bar-tailed godwit, and have a straighter bill.


A rare breeding bird of wet grasslands in East Anglia, Kent and North West England. Fairly common on migration at wetlands throughout the country. Winters on estuaries around the coast.

Did you know?

The UK's breeding Black-tailed godwits winter in Africa, while the birds that spend their winters on the south coast of the UK nest in Iceland. Those that nest in Iceland are actually a different subspecies (Limosa limosa islandia) to those that breed in the rest of Europe (Limosa limosa limosa).

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many wetland and coastal nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.