Bar-Tailed Godwits Come to Rely on the Wash
News from the BTO
14th June 1996
During recent years about 12,000 Bar-tailed Godwits have used the Wash (a wide estuary on the east coast of England) as a passage area or for wintering. This is about 10% of the European population of this large wader which breeds in Northern Scandinavia and Northern Russia. In a paper published in the current Bird Study Phil Atkinson describes how extensive work by amateur bird ringers has provided the basis for this analysis.
Birds caught by the Wash Wader Ringing Group are marked so that details of recaptures show where the birds travel to - and if they are already ringed where they come from. Details of their measurements allow the birds to be sexed and, because there are subtle differences between different breeding populations, also give clues as to their origin. The ringers also study the bird's moult which often tells us what the birds are doing whilst they are with us.
The males birds in our population mainly come from the Scandinavian population but the females (in a minority) come from various different breeding areas. The birds using the Wash are also using the Wadden Sea (in the Netherlands and Germany) in spring. Vast populations of Bar-tailed Godwits from the breeding grounds in Russia and Siberia use the Banc d'Arguin in Mauretania and other coastal wetland in West Africa - possibly as many as 700,000. Of the European wintering population of about 115,000 45% uses British Estuaries. About 25,000 of these are in the North-west and over 5,000 are at Lindisfarne in Northumbria and on the Thames.