Godwit Goes Deep

This Marbled Godwit seems to have become a permanent resident of the North Basin or somewhere nearby.  I saw it, or another bird like it, in August, when all good migrators are breeding up in the northern Plains.  In the last week of September, before any sizeable in-migration, I saw it again in the same area, the mudflats by the Schoolhouse Creek channel.

This bird was a hard worker, with a high PPM (Pecks Per Minute) rate.  Occasionally, it plunged not only its long beak, but its entire head deep into the mud or the water.  See video below.

Godwits have sensitive feelers at the tip of their beaks and forage by touch, not by sight or smell.  Daylight is not necessary for this kind of feeding, so the Godwit can work 24/7 if so inclined.

The Cornell Bird Lab website has this further information:

Marbled Godwits wade through shallow waters, swim if they must, or walk through shortgrass prairies. They fly with their head slightly pulled in with their feet trailing behind and have a rather sharp profile that includes slender, pointed wings. They occasionally perch on fence posts on the breeding grounds. Godwits sleep while standing, often with their bill tucked behind the shoulder while standing on one leg. Marbled Godwits have large territories that include both feeding and nesting areas. In North Dakota for example, average territory size has been measured at more than 200 acres. Within these territories, males perform flight displays early in the breeding season to attract a mate. They fly up to 300 feet above the ground and circle their territory, flying with slow wingbeats and calling. Once paired, they form monogamous bonds for the breeding season. They don’t spend the nonbreeding season together, but males and females frequently return to the same area to breed year after year and often breed with the same mate. On the wintering grounds, they forage in groups with other shorebirds including Long-billed Curlews, Hudsonian Godwits, Whimbrels, and Willets.

Prior to 1900, Marbled Godwits bred in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota, but no longer breed there. Hunting and habitat loss as a result of conversion of prairies to agriculture contributed to extirpation of breeders from these areas. Coastal wintering sites have also been lost or degraded. In San Francisco, California, for example, tidal mudflats have been reduced from around 20,000 acres to about 12,000 acres from 1800 to 2000.

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