A Pantheon of Black-Tailed Godwits

Whilst we have not seen flocks of 30,000 or more, apparently a common sight in the Tagus estuary at this time of year, the numbers are growing every day. It is though their changing plumage, rather than their numbers which are catching my eye. At the beginning of last week there were just a few turning orange but now it seems every other Black-Tailed Godwit is changing into their breeding plumage. Black Tailed Godwit - early summer plumage

It seems early to be seeing summer plumage but on checking MrB’s birding records it seems they were changing plumage this time last year too. It is glorious for us to observe the change, however from the amount of preening going on it is obviously an irritating stage for the birds to have to go through every year.

They breed in water meadows and boggy moorland, but on passage to their breeding grounds they frequent estuaries, mudflats and saltpans which is why you will see so many in the Ria Formosa and Tagus at this time of year. When not preening they either have their heads tucked away or are feeding on insects and crustaceans that they find in the mud and shallow waters. In fact most of my photographs are of them without heads because of that! Pause in feeding

Their Portuguese name is Maçarico-de-bico-direito, which when I first typed into google translate came up with Right-wing Tortoise! However their Portuguese name in English is actually straight billed curlew, A good name as that is one of the small differences between the Black-tailed Godwit and the Bar-tailed Godwit, the other difference obviously being the one highlighted by their English name. There are also Bar-tailed Godwits congregating in the saltpans as you can see from the photograph below. It is quite a good shot for noting the differences between the two species. Can you spot the straighter beak of the black-tailed? Bar tailed and Black Tailed Godwits

No? Don’t worry neither could I until MrB pointed it out to me! Have another look at the one almost in the centre. That’s a bar-tailed. If you look carefully you can see the beak has a slight upturn. He is also shorter. At least I think he is a bar-tailed!! Anyhow before I totally confuse you and me, let me change the subject and explain my title. Pantheon is one of the collective nouns for Godwits, another as you may recall from a post nearly two years ago is Prayer.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

20 thoughts

    1. Hopefully yours will be arriving soon! I just love seeing them in their different plumages as they move from winter to summer.

  1. Nature is pretty amazing, isn’t she? 🙂 I wonder where the name Godwit came from?
    Visitor free and free to wander, Becky?

    1. Yes 😎 and our wanderings will be northern next week as we head for Lisboa and Oporto. Albeit of course I miss them at same time!!!

      And you’re not the only one to puzzle that. Although when I discussed it with MrB he just said ‘well what about the name Dunlin’!!

        1. 21st but only for a few days as then off to England. Back on 2nd April and then here still we depart for summer. When are you back?

        2. Definitely…..and you’ll get to meet my Mum as she flys out with us on 2nd. You let us know which day best for you xx

  2. appassionata di ornitologia ho gradito molto questo tuo post, immagini, e spigazioni, c’è sempre da imparfare
    grazie mille, felice notte

  3. Hehehe! I could see the difference, Becky, even though I was thinking that they looked the same… the one with the straighter beak’s on the right (3 o’clock) and left (11 o’clock) yes? And I love Right-wing Tortoise… can you imagine an organised tortoise movement? That gave me a chuckle! 😀

    1. Hee hee I’d never thought of it quite like that . . .think I’d prefer organised tortoises anyday to some of the right-wing humans!!
      and yes!

  4. I’ve really enjoyed this and followed up some of your links. Your photos are beautiful and show the plumage so well. Fascinating birds and such long distance fliers. A prayer and a pantheon but I haven’t yet found out why they are called godwit. I feature one in my story and it is rather mysterious and then I found out the Maori call it a mystery bird and link to to departing spirits. They would never have known it flew so far to Alaska or would they. One European ones I think have more opportunity of land to stopover on. Enjoy the sun and birding as I am in the UK but hey there’s daffodils and goldfinches in my garden here!

    1. oh thank you so so much . . it is an unusual name isn’t it. How fascinating what the Maori call it, and it does make you wonder if the Maori did know, afterall they travelled far themselves.
      Loving the sun now after the recent storms, missing the daffodils though!

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