WatchList Species Account for Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Marbled Godwit

Photo: Glen Tepke

The great majority of Marbled Godwits breed in the northern grasslands of the U.S. and Canada, from Montana east to northwestern Minnesota and southern Canada from Alberta to Manitoba, with a small population along the southern shore of Hudson Bay and another on the Alaska Peninsula.


This godwit ranges only as far south as Central America in winter, while many spend the nonbreeding season on U.S. coasts -- from North Carolina to Florida on the Gulf Coast, and from central California to Mexico along the Pacific. A few birds winter at inland locations in California, such as the Sacramento Valley and the Salton Sea, and at scattered localities in British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.


Before 1900, this bird's breeding range included Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, and a larger part of Minnesota. Since habitat in these places has been turned to cropland, the godwit has not repopulated its former range.


Breeding habitat is a complex of native grasslands and ephemeral to semipermanent wetlands. Greatest densities of territorial males in North Dakota were in grazed habitats. The James Bay population is found mainly in wet tundra and open taiga habitats, while Alaskan birds frequent marsh and very wet bog habitats. In winter the Marbled Godwit can be found on coastal mudflats and adjoining meadows, sandy beaches, and sandflats.


Total population is estimated at 140,000-200,000 individuals. During the period 1966-1996 mumbers increased in the U.S. slightly but significantly while remaining the same in Canada. The main threat to this species and to other grassland birds is the steady disappearance of North American grasslands; it is estimated that less than 1% are intact in some areas. Many coastal staging sites in California have also been lost or degraded in the last century.


Conservation plans for the Marbled Godwit include protecting contiguous blocks of native grassland, maintaining a complex of different wetland types through use of rotational grazing, controlling energy exploration in sensitive breeding habitats,, and protect staging and wintering sites along the coast.