Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
Black-tailed Godwit, Musselburgh, Scotland, March 2001 - click for larger image Scotland

Black-tailed Godwits can be easily confused with Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) particularly in their winter plumage. It is helpful if you can see the top of the tail, unfortunately hidden in the first photo, because this is black while, not surprisingly, it is barred in the case of the Bar-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit, Musselburgh, Scotland, March 2001 - click for larger image Other indications are, that the Black-tailed has a plain, as opposed to streaked, back; a longer tibia; and a straighter rather than upcurved bill.

In flight, they are quite distinct with the Black-tailed showing a white wing-bar, a white square on the rump and legs which project conspicuously beyond the tail - all seen adequately in the otherwise out-of-focus 2nd photo.

Black-tailed Godwit, Fetlar Shetland, Scotland, May 2004 - click for larger image The Black-tailed Godwit breeds from Iceland through central Europe into Russia with a separate population in Siberia. They migrate in winter further south as far as sub-Saharan Africa, India, Indonesia and Australia.

In the British Isles there are some breeding birds. Those in East Anglia come from the continent and are of the slightly smaller and duller nominate subspecies L. l. limosa, while those in Scotland and Ireland are, like most winter visitors as well, of the Icelandic subspecies, L.l. islandica. For an excellent page on these two sub-species see http://www.magikbirds.com

Black-tailed Godwit, Fetlar Shetland, Scotland, May 2004 - click for larger image Summer plumage, as seen in photos 3 and 4, includes rufous on the head, neck and breast while the bill is yellowish-orange with a dark tip. These birds were on Fetlar in Shetland and, in late May, may be some of the few L. l. islandica that breed in Shetland and represent almost 100% of this sub-species that breed in Britain

Winter visitors start to arrive in mid July at the earliest and leave by the following May at the latest.

There are illustrations in HBW, Volume 3, Pages 449 and 500.

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