People are still emailing me about doing a Godwit Identification post. I think people may have missed the quick Godwit ID refresher post that I did earlier (probably because it was tagged onto another post). Therefore, I have re-posted it below with photos:

One note all 3 of the Godwit Species have black legs and primary projections that project past the tertials longer than lore.

Bar-tailed Godwits

Adults in winter -The underbelly is white (with no barring as in Marbled) and the neck and breast has faint streaks with dark chevron patterns along the flanks and black legs. The bill is coloured pink on the basal half.

Adults in Breeding - You won't normally see this plumage in BC but I did see them like this in Nome, AK in June and they are truly spectacular!. 

Males in Breeding have their breast, underbelly and neck coloured a deep rich red. They have streaking on the nape and the sides of the breast. Their backs are dark brown and have dark mottling with white flecking. Their bills are black (in males and females). 

Females in Breeding can be all white or deeply barred on the breast and the sides usually have a dark chevron pattern. They have a striped effect on their dark gray-brown backs and their faces and neck are streaked.

-White rump in flight in All Plumages

Juvenile  Bar-tailed Godwits are spotted above with white bellies and Juvie Hudsonian Godwit lacks the spotting above and streaking on the face.

Bar-tailed Godwits have the shortest legs of any of the Godwits.

Primary projection - past the tertials longer than lore. 

Bar-tailed Godwit - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev

Marbled Godwits

Largest of all the Godwits. They also have a longer bill than the other godwits but it's not a reliable ID feature, as female Bar-tailed Godwits have very long bills.

Adults in Breeding plumage - Dark brown (with white and gold barring and spotting) on the back, with a streaked head and neck.  They have a uniform cinnamon colour on the breast, underbelly and flanks with fine dark barring.

Adults in Winter plumage - Dark brown (with cinnamon spotting) on the back and they have a uniform pale cinnamon colour on the breast, underbelly and flanks with light barring.

Both winter and summer adults have the full pale cinnamon underbelly with no white like Bar-tailed Godwits.

The underwing coverts (visible in flight) and the wings viewed from above are CINNAMON coloured, which helps you eliminate it from similar Long-billed Curlews as well.

Primary projection - past the tertials shorter than lore. 

Marbled Godwit - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev

Hudsonian Godwits

Shorter neck and shorter legs than Marbled Godwits, They are mch smaller in size than Marbled Godwits but unless side by side, this isn't a reliable feature.

They have a distinct and reliable underwing pattern: Black Axilliaries with white wingbar.  

They also have a narrow white wingstripe that fades out into the secondaries which is visible in flight. In flight you can also see that the feet project just past the tail.

They have a distinct tail pattern visible especially in flight with a white rump and black terminal tailband.

You can view a photo of a Hudsonian Godwit in flight HERE

Adult males in breeding have thin dark barring on a dark red-brown breast and underbelly. They also have streaked whitish necks.

Females in breeding can have some white in the more muted coloured underbelly.

Adults in winter plumage are plain gray above with a white underbelly.

Juveniles are brown-gray above and white below with a dotted effect on the scapular feathers with a streaked effect on the coverts. The bill of Juveniles are only coloured pink on the basal third while adults have the bill colored pink halfway down or more.

Primary projection - past the tertials longer than lore.  

Hudsonian Godwit - Photo: Ilya Povalyaev


  1. Fantastic post. I learned a lot because I didn't have a clue what to look for in those godwits you keep reporting from boundary bay. Thanks again this helped tremendously.

  2. excellent post mel. this one really helped me out more than i thought it would. i went to semiahmoo last night and saw all three godwits you posted about on your rare bird alert blog. i found this tutorial helpful in particular with identifying the bar-tailed and hudsonian. thx


Post a Comment

Popular Posts

Dowitcher Identification

Hawk Identification Tips from every angle (Sharpie vs Cooper and Red-tailed Subspecies)


*Updated - The most famous Red-tailed Hawk is eating fish on the ground just like a Bald Eagle!

*UPDATED* The First Ever Black Birders Week May 31-June 5th