bearriver Blog

Marbled godwit encounter

A note from recent visitors!

"Lots of marbled godwits at 2 p.m. in shallows along east leg of auto tour route.  Estimate of 2,000.  Sky was filled with brown with bars.  They circled around into reeds to the south but eventually cam back in smaller groups flying fast and close to water.  Eventually re-gathered in large group flying 200-400 feet high like starlings. This was a sight we had never witnessed before!." From:  John E. Houser and Dennis Allen

A bit more about Marbled godwits. Marbled godwits breed from central Canada south into Nebraska, Minnesota and South Dakota.   Large flocks of wintering Marbled godwits can be found in southern California and western Mexico. The Refuge is an important staging area for Marbled godwits as part of the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. Refuge may host up to 6 percent of entire population during fall staging periods while entire Great Salt Lake system may host up to 19 percent (Oring et al. 2000).  A five-year survey of the Great Salt Lake yielded a mean population of 15,125 (July-August) (Paul and Manning 2002). The Refuge mean from the five year survey was 8,867 Marbled godwits. They are some of our earliest migrant arrivals with the first waves coming as early as late July, but they are also some of the last to leave just before the Refuge ices over.

Uncommon for shorebirds, Marbled Godwits sometimes forage almost exclusively on plant tubers during migration. Main food items taken on interior staging areas and breeding grounds are insects (particularly grasshoppers), aquatic plant tubers (sago pondweed), leeches, and small fish. In Idaho, foraging birds noted as common on large mudflats, occasional on moderate mudflats caused by reservoir drawdowns. In Manitoba in fall, Marbled Godwits feed in shallow water with soft mud substrate. They feed primarily by probing substrate, but known to glean insects from water surface or terrestrial habitats, and small fish from shallow water.

Photo by: Larry MuenchMarbled Godwit  foraging, by Larry Muench

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