Marbled Godwit: A Very Special Bird!

Marbled Godwits are NEVER seen in Massachusetts at this time of year.  Tom captured dozens of photos of this bird, but I probably would never have been able to identify the species on my own.  Luckily, we met a member of the IBA (Important Bird Area) Birdathon team on the beach, and he told us what we had found. 

Despite his very distinctive features (a very long, upturned, orange and black bill, for example!), I would not have confirmed the ID of a bird that wasn't even on my list of target species.  (Target species are unexpected but recently sighted birds in your assigned area).

Marbled Godwits are more than unexpected around here in the month of May. Marbled Godwits are unheard of in Massachusetts during May.  Why? 

Marbled Godwits breed in the northern Great Plains of the U.S. and Canada. In May, they are seen migrating over the central states in large flocks.  Massachusetts is nowhere near their springtime migratory route.

You occasionally see Marbled Godwits in the fall, if they get blown off course as they head for their winter homes along southern coastlines from North Carolina to Central America. But according to an expert source, there have been only three or four sighting of Marbled Godwits in Massachusetts during May in all of history!

We were very lucky to catch a glimpse of such a rarity - and luckier still that an experienced birder was present that day to ID the species for us.  After all, it required an expert to know it wasn't a Hudsonian Godwit (black wing linings seen in flight) or a Bar-tailed Godwit (brick red underparts and a striped black tail).  The Marbled Godwit is similar to these birds, but can be identified by it's cinnamon wing linings and paler underparts.

To tell you the truth, seeing a Marbled Godwit was really quite a thrill!


  1. What a thrilling encounter! Congrats, Susan. Nice pictures and interesting post.

  2. A magical wildlife encounter...finding something unexpected and producing such excellent shots. Well done Susan. FAB.


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