Return to Main Page   Dakota Birder Blog    

Marbled Godwit

Limosa fedoa

Length: 18 to 20 inches Wingspan: 32 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Even cinnamon color overall with dark barring above, long upcurved bill with pink base

Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwits are among the largest of the sandpipers that visit the state, only being surpassed by the Long-billed Curlew.  Fairly gregarious, they tend to breed in loose colonies, where they prefer native prairie with adjacent wetlands.  Hunting by day or by night on mudflats or shallow waters, Marbled Godwits primarily find food items by touch, sometimes probing deeply enough to submerge their entire head below the water's surface.  They are a very vocal species (particularly in the presence of a potential threat, such as a bird nut with a camera), with their scolding calls often heard before a bird is even seen.

Habitat:

During summer months, breeding Marbled Godwits prefer native prairie with marshes or other wetlands nearby.  During migration, they can be found in and around nearly any aquatic environment. 

Diet:

Primarily feeds on insects during the summer months.  Will also feed on plant roots and seeds, especially from grasses and aquatic plants.  They will also feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms on their coastal wintering grounds.

Behavior:

In summer months while breeding in South Dakota, feeds heavily on insects by gleaning then from upland foliage or picking them up from the ground.  In all months, also sometimes wades in shallow water or walks on mudflats like other shorebirds, probing with its bill in the mud or picking food items off the mud or water's surface.

Nesting:

 June and July. The nest is a simple scrape on the ground, with a sparse lining of grasses or sometimes other material. It is placed in grassland, typical shortgrass prairie in relatively open areas with surprisingly little cover or protection. The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. The young hatch after about 3 weeks.

Song:

Coarse nasal kwek in flight as well as other vocalizations.

1Click here to hear the flight call of a Marbled Godwit, recorded in Imperial County, California

2Click here to hear a longer, chattering call of a bird in flight, recorded in Phillips County, Montana

Migration:

Summers on the northern Great Plains into southern Canada.  Winters along the Pacific coast, with somewhat lesser numbers wintering on the Gulf or Atlantic Coast. Some winter as far away as South America.

Interactive eBird Map:

 Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Marbled Godwit sightings

Similar Species:

Marbled Godwits can potentially be confused with other Godwit (and shorebird) species (only one of which is generally an issue in South Dakota):

Status:

Populations are drastically reduced from historical levels.  Hunting took a big toll in the 19th century.  Populations rebounded somewhat when hunting pressures abated in the 20th century.  However, expanding agricultural lands have resulted in habitat loss, and numbers have begun to decline once again. However, the geographic range of a Marbled Godwit is very large, they are relatively common in some remaining parts of their range, and overall numbers are not low enough to warrant a threatened or endangered status. The IUCN considers the Marbled Godwit to be a species of "Least Concern".

South Dakota "Hotspot":

The Fort Pierre National Grasslands always have breeding Marbled Godwits during the summer months. Look for the small stock ponds or other scattered water features on the Grasslands, as Marbled Godwits typically prefer to nest in grassland areas that are somewhat near water.

Further Information:

 1) BirdWeb - Marbled Godwit

2) WhatBird - Marbled Godwit

3) Audubon Guide - Marbled Godwit

Photo Information:

July 2007 - Lake Thompson, Kingsbury County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Marbled Godwit photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Frank Lambert, XC408631. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/408631

2Richard E. Webster, XC185533. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/185533

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Marbled Godwit - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon summer breeding resident, except absent in the southeastern part of the state.  Uncommon migrant throughout the state.

Additional Marbled Godwit Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Marbled Godwit 1 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 2 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 3 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 4 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 5 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 6 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 7 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 8 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 9 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 10 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 11 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 12 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 13 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 14 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 15 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 16 - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwit 17 - Limosa fedoa