The Black-tailed Godwit is a large wader with long bill (7.5 to 12 cm long), neck and legs. During the breeding season, the bill has a yellowish or orange-pink base and dark tip; the base is pink in winter. The legs are dark grey, brown or black. The sexes are similar, but in breeding plumage, they can be separated by the male's brighter, more extensive orange breast, neck and head. In winter, adult Black-tailed Godwits have a uniform brown-grey breast and upperparts (in contrast to the Bar-tailed Godwit's streaked back). Juveniles have a pale orange wash to the neck and breast. In flight, its bold black and white wingbar and white rump can be seen readily. When on the ground it can be difficult to separate from the similar Bar-tailed Godwit, but the Black-tailed Godwit's longer, straighter bill and longer legs are diagnostic. Black-tailed Godwits are similar in body size and shape to Bar-taileds, but stand taller.
Habitat and Distribution
Black-tailed Godwits have a discontinuous breeding range stretching from Iceland to the far east of Russia. Their breeding habitat is river valley fens, floods at the edges of large lakes, damp steppes, raised bogs and moorlands. They winter in the Mediterranean region, Africa just south of the Sahara, southern Asia and Australia. In spring, Black-tailed Godwits feed largely in grasslands, moving to muddy estuaries after breeding and for winter. On African wintering grounds, swamps, floods and irrigated paddy fields can attract flocks of birds. In India, inland pools, lakes and marshes are used, and occasionally brackish lakes, tidal creeks and estuaries
They mainly eat invertebrates, but also aquatic plants in winter and on migration. In the breeding season, prey includes include beetles, flies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies, caterpillars, annelid worms and molluscs. Occasionally, fish eggs, frogspawn and tadpoles are eaten. In water, the most common feeding method is to probe vigorously, up to 36 times per minute, and often with the head completed submerged. On land, Black-tailed Godwits probe into soft ground and also pick prey items from the surface.
Black-tailed Godwits are mostly monogamous. They nest in loose colonies. Once eggs are laid, an area of 30-50 metres around the nest is defended. The nest is a shallow scrape on the ground, usually in short vegetation. The eggs may be hidden with vegetation by the incubating parent. The single brood of three to six eggs, coloured olive-green to dark brown. Incubation lasts 22-24 days and is performed by both parents. The young are downy and precocial. The chicks fledge after 25-30 days
Calls and Songs
The most common call is a strident weeka weeka weeka.