More on Continental Black-tailed Godwits

Learning slowly!

OK. Deep breath! This is the kind of subject I seem to learn best slowly. One layer at a time. Not all at once! It’s too much to take in all the complex data which enables some (who have through trial and error developed expertise in the subject) to correctly identify many more individual than I can at present. But I am learning. So here’s a bit of my learning. It’s an optimum time of year to look as Continental ‘nominate limosa‘ will very soon (next couple of weeks?) be heading south while many of the Icelandic birds are just arriving, some to winter. So catch ’em while you can! With very grateful thanks to Richard Millington, Mark Golley and James Lees.

2 photos of the same juvenile Continental Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa limosa. Slimbridge WWT 14 July 2011. James Lees.

See  how light and angle of view can make birds look darker/ paler. I am not doing all the work though! Compare with the juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa islandica below. Look at overall plumage tone, extent and tone of orange on underparts, and patterning on scapulars, coverts and tertials.

juvenile Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit, Spurn, August 2010

The next 2 are fun. Both are 1st summer Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits. See, I said it was complicated! Both are in wing moult and both have retained juvenile outer primaries (just about visible)

1st summer Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit. Titchwell, Norfolk. 10 July 2011. This has newish looking round tipped grey coverts. This one may well have summered in the area. Adults just returning from Iceland have obviously older, more worn coverts (and of course at lot more bright orange plumage). When tested by my tutors Millington and Golley, I got this roughly right,

1st summer Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit. Titchwell, Norfolk. 10 July 2011. And I got this one completely wrong. Right subspecies but all over the place after that. This actually has (hard to see) very frayed retained juvenile coverts, newish looking grey coverts and bright orange and black feathering. This also may have summered in the area. First summers islandica’s are very variable! Some have more black/orange feathering than some adults!

Moulting adult female (left) and adult male (right) Continental Black-tailed Godwits. More advanced in their moult than adult Icelandic Black -tailed Godwits. They are preparing to head to sub-Saharan Africa very soon… Slimbridge WWT 15th July 2011. James Lees.

All 3. Juvenile (front), adult female (back left), adult male (back right) Continental Black-tailed Godwits. Slimbridge WWT 15th July 2011 James Lees. There are presently 4 Continental Black-tailed Godwit and c270 Iceland Black -tailed Godwit at Slimbridge WWT.

Bloomin’ leggy looking things. best thing to do? Icelandic Black-Tailed Godwits are in full migration mode passing through the country right now. First returning adults; then juveniles (just starting to appear). Learn them!

 adult male Continental Black-tailed Godwit

adult female Continental Back-tailed Godwit


About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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2 Responses to More on Continental Black-tailed Godwits

  1. Bob Chapman says:

    The juveniles are usually quite distinctive being a very different colour from Icelandics, even to me and I am colour blind. Something I have noticed is that continental birds have a habit of raising a ridge of feathers along the full length of the back of the neck, often quite prominent in pictures. I don’t say Icelandic never do this, but certainly not in habitual way the continentals do.

    As you say they are pretty rare in UK, often overlooked and frequently ignored even when pretty obvious, e.g. a juv female stands out like a “saw thumb”. They often get ignored in bird reports as well so the true status is hard to determine. In Hampshire there are few each autumn, almost all juveniles and often turning up before any Icelandic juveniles, which is a clue in itself.

    Good to see then getting some attention.

  2. Pingback: Tripping over snails, and gazing at godwits « Notes from the river bank

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