Tag Archives: Limosa limosa

The Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit

Jaðrakan – Black-tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa

Migrants have been coming to Iceland in flocks. One of these is the Black-Tailed Godwit with its beautiful colours and shrill song. It overwinters on the west coast of Europe from Holland to the shores of Portugal. The special Icelandic subspecies mostly breeds in Iceland but also in the Faroe Islands, Shetlands and Lofoten. This subspecies is more colourful, has shorter legs and a shorter bill. The Black-Tailed Godwit breeds in lowlands all over Iceland and the population, which is estimated around 100 000, has gradually been growing while other subspecies have been decreasing slightly in recent years.

Limosa limosa islandica

Jaðrakan – Black-tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa, May 4, 2018.

The Icelandic migrators have had a harsh time this spring. The Black-tailed Godwit is lucky to have long legs to wade the snow and a fine bill to find insects, worms and plants. The first Godwits arrived in Iceland in the middle of April. Their winter grounds are along the coast of Western Europe from the British Isles and Holland, to the Iberian Peninsula.

The Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit is a sub species that only breeds in Iceland, Faeroe Islands, Shetland and Lofoten; in latin Limosa limosa islandica. It is a common breeding bird in grown wetlands and its numbers in Iceland, as well as breeding area, are increasing.

Keeping track of the chicks

Jaðrakan – Black-tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa

The Black-tailed Godwit is always agitated when its chicks are on the move. As with other waders they are born quite mature and leave the nest very early. By now they have started finding their way in life. The parents however do not seem so sure of their potential. The chicks are usually four so its quite a job to keep track of them. Here the parents have chosen a tree top to keep watch over them.

The Black-tailed Godwit is a migratory bird and those who did not manage to find a mate this spring have already left. Reports of ringed ones tell us that some are already in their winter grounds in Britain.

Birds on poles

Jaðrakan – Black-Tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa

In May moorland birds claim their territories and defend and guard them if intruders venture too near. To survey their territory these landowners often perch on hills, rocks or fence poles to get a better view.

Stelkur – Redshank – Tringa totanus

In the lowlands in South Iceland fence poles are popular for these observations and used a lot by Black-Tailed Godwits, Common Snipes and Redshanks.

Hrossagaukur – Snipe – Gallinago gallinago

Chick time

Jaðrakan – Black-tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa (juv)

All over the moors chicks  can be seen – chicks of Golden Plovers, Black-tailed Godwits , Whimbrels, Redshanks, Common Snipes, Ptarmigans and more. They are all over the place, in bogs and moors. Now is the perfect time to observe nature at its most beautiful. Due to mild weather in May and June breeding and hatching went well.

Heiðlóa - Golden Plover - Pluvialis apricaria
Heiðlóa – Golden Plover – Pluvialis apricaria (juv)

Yesterday we saw Golden Plover chicks and Black-Tailed Godwit chicks in Grímsnes. They were well looked after by the parents.

Black-Tailed Godwits

Jaðrakan – Black-Tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa

Migrants are now coming to Iceland from Europe in flocks. In the last couple of weeks there has been headwind on the 800 km migration route over the ocean from Scotland and Ireland. Now weather conditions are better and in the last two days many migrants have started their long and difficult flight.


Among these is the Black-Tailed Godwit that overwinters on the west coast of Europe from Holland to Portugal. A group of around 300 birds was by the banks of Hvítá River in Grímsnes yesterday. The birds are obviously dead tired and eagerly searched  for food in the in the sand.


Black-Tailed Godwits – a little part of the group

Creature of habit

This ringed Black-tailed Godwit was spotted in the Bird Reserve in Flói, South Iceland, 30 June. The bird was ringed in this same spot on  June 24, 2011. It has been spotted in the UK and near the place of ringing every year since then.

Jaðrakan – Black-tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa

Black-tailed Godwits are quite obvious at this time of year. They are loud and try to protect their chicks and eggs from predators.

Ringed Black-tailed Godwits

This morning we went to the Flói Bird Reserve, not far from Selfoss. There we saw two tagged Black-Tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa). One of them was marked OW-YL and is the same bird I saw on June 2, 2013, in this same place.  Its story is known. It was tagged in  Flói Bird Reserve June 14, 2010. The other one I have not seen before and I am waiting for information about it. A lot of Black-tailed Godwits have been ringed in this area in the last few years. It seems that many of them over winter in Portugal.

Jaðrakan – Black-Tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa

Reading for OW-YL

14.06.10        Fridland, South Iceland
06.09.10        Moëze, Réserve Naturelle, Charente-Maritime, W- France
23.07.12        Flag Creek, St Osyth, Colne Estuary, Essex, E England
07.10.12        Cudmore Grove Country Park, East Mersea, Essex, E England
02.06.13       Fridland, South Iceland
03.05.15        Fridland, South Iceland

Jaðrakan – Black-Tailed Godwit – Limosa limosa