The Bar-tailed godwit is a large wading bird. Its migration includes the longest known non-stop flight of any bird and also the longest journey without pausing to feed by any animal. Adult birds have blue-grey legs and a slightly upturned bi-colored bill, pink at the base and black towards the tip. The neck, breast, and belly are unbroken brick red in breeding plumage and are off white in winter. The back of these birds is mottled grey in color.
Bar-tailed godwits breed in Scandinavia, northern Asia, and Alaska and migrate to coastal East and South Asia, Australia, Africa, northwestern Europe, and New Zealand. Their breeding grounds include open tundra, mudflats, marshy and swampy areas, river valleys, lakes, and bogs. The winter habitats are usually located along muddy coastlines, estuaries, shallow bays and lagoons.
Bar-tailed godwits are social but extremely wary birds. They congregate in flocks but when feeding during the day they may disperse individually or in small groups. Bar-tailed godwits forage by probing in mudflats or marshes using their long sensitive bills. They may also find insects by sight in short vegetation. When birds are alarmed they produce high-pitched “kik” or “kiv-ik”. During courtship displays and on nesting grounds their calls sound as “a-wik, a-wik, a-wik” and a “ku-wew, ku-wew”.
Bar-tailed godwits are monogamous which means that one male mates with only one female. They breed between May and June performing courtship displays in which the male circles high above the nest site and calls loudly. The nest is a shallow cup in moss sometimes lined with vegetation. The female lays 2 to 4 which are incubated about 20-22 days. Both parents share incubation of the eggs and care for the young. The chicks are precocial (fully-developed; they hatch with their eyes open and are able to follow their parents to nearby marshy areas to find their own food. The young fledge and become independent from their parents when they are 1 month old reach reproductive maturity at 2 years of age.
Major threats to Bar-tailed godwits include habitat loss due to residential and commercial development, expansion of the agriculture and mining, climate change and serve weather as well as hunting in some areas of their range. They also suffer from pollution, human disturbance, and outbreaks of infectious diseases.
According to the IUCN Red List, the global Bar-tailed godwit population size is around 1,099,000-1,149,000 individuals. The European breeding population consists of 3,700-9,000 pairs, which equates to 7,400-18,000 mature individuals. The East Asian-Australasian Flyway population includes 325,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are decreasing.