Marbled Godwit

Bird of the Month: Marbled Godwit

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Marbled Godwit)

PC: Mick Thompson (Marbled Godwit)

Scientific Name: Limosa fedoa

Length 18 in

Wingspan 29 in

Weight 13 oz

AOU Band code MAGO

The Marbled Godwit (MAGO) is about 18" long with a 29" wingspan and weighs 13 oz. (370g). The genus name Limosa (lie-MOH-sah) is from the Latin limus, meaning "muddy," for its favorite habitat, mudflats. The species name fedoa (FED-oh-ah) is the Latin version of an old and now unknown English word meaning "marbled." - for its mottled plumage.

It is a large shorebird with a long, slightly upturned bi-colored bill with a pink base and a black tip. The back and wings are buffy brown, marked with black. Underparts are heavily barred in summer and buffy with no barring in winter. The underwings are cinnamon colored in flight. Summer plumage is basically the same as winter plumage.

The MAGO nests in the northern Great Plains of interior North America in areas of native prairie with marshes and ponds nearby. In summer on the prairies they feed mostly on insects, primarily grasshoppers, and roots and seeds of aquatic plants.

When they leave the nesting areas they go to both coastal regions. Large flocks will roost together in salt meadows at high tide or stand together in shallow water on tidal mudflats where they probe deeply in the mud with their long bills for worms, mollusks and crustaceans. They often wade and probe in water so deep that their head is underwater. The MAGO finds most food by touch and may feed both day and night.They usually nest in small groups. Males display by flying in circles over an area and calling loudly "god-WHIT". They are not known to nest in Washington. On the ground, a pair may go through ritualized nest-scrape-making display. The nest is on the ground, usually in short grass on a dry spot close to water and in a slight depression lined with dry grass. Sometimes there is a small canopy of grass above the nest.

Usually there are four eggs, sometimes 3 or 5. Eggs are a green-brown with brown spots. Incubation is 21-23 days by both parents. The incubating bird may stay motionless even when closely approached. The downy young leave the nest soon after hatching. Both of the parents take care of the young, but the young find their own food. The age at first flight is about 3 weeks.In Washington, the MAGO is a common fall to spring resident in large numbers at Tokeland and occasionally at Bill's Spit and Damon Point at Ocean Shores, and uncommon at other coastal locations.