Marbled Godwits are almost as common here in the winter months as seagulls or crows. They’re quite uncommon in the summer. I saw three of them at a very low tide in June of last year, and that was quite unusual. This August morning three of them worked the extended mud not far from Schoolhouse Creek in the North Basin. Watch a brief video on YouTube here.
The conventional godwit, according to the Audubon website, spends the summers breeding up in the northern Great Plains. Assuming that these two didn’t fly in from Saskatchewan overnight just to enjoy this minus tide, where have they been hiding since winter? M.A.T.W.O.B. (Mysterious Are The Ways Of Birds).
One of these birds appeared to have its left leg broken at the knee. It was also having trouble with something in its feathers. This bird kept pecking at something in its underbelly that was torturing it. This concern distracted it for some time from feeding.
All birds are plagued with tiny mites, fleas, ticks, and similar parasites, both on their skins and inside their bodies. You can see them sometimes thrusting their beaks into their feathers, or scratching with one foot, much like a dog with fleas. Two of these godwits spent a considerable portion of their time on the water here pecking at their skins instead of at the mud.
Parasites on birds is quite a serious subject with a considerable literature. One recent study suggests that rising environmental temperature due to climate change afflicts birds with a greater abundance of parasites.