Marbled godwits are big, light brown shorebirds with long legs. Their bills turn up a little bit. Their feathers are light brown and the birds look darker on top than underneath. They look different form other birds like bar-tailed godwits because they have cinnamon brown mixed with the white underneath their wings. During the breeding season, they get dark bars on breasts and bellies. They have gray or blue-gray legs and bright pink or orange beaks. Marbled godwits are 42 to 48 cm long and weigh 285 to 454 g. Females are usually larger than males. (Gratto, 2000)
Marbled godwits live in the United States and Canada, from the West Coast to the center of the continent. In the winter, they are found from the Gulf of Mexico all they way up to Alaska. In the summer, they breed in the northern plains of the United States and in pine forests in Alaska. Smaller numbers of them also live in Alaska and in southwestern James Bay in Canada, and spend the summers there. (Gratto, 2000; Seattle Audubon Society, 2011)
Marbled godwits live in a larger area than any other kind of godwit. When breeding in the summer, they live in grasslands or wetlands. These are usually located in the northern prairies of the United States and Canada, where there aren't too many plants. Other habitats include ponds that dry up for part of the year, as well as farm fields. Farther north, marbled godwits live in Arctic habitats like tundra and taiga. They also are found in bogs and marshes along the coast. During the winter or the time when they are migrating, marbled godwits live in wetlands and marshes, shallow ponds, places where rivers meet the ocean, mudflats, salt marshes, and sandy beaches. (Gratto, 2000)
Marbled godwits living farther south arrive at their summer location in April or May. They form a pair that breeds together for the summer. Males attract females by performing a courtship ritual. This involves circling in flight high up in the air, and then diving down steeply. Males choose a place to nest that is dry and has short grass. They don't build very complicated nests. Females have to approve the nest, and then both of them add grass to it. Sometimes, they also add a canopy of grass over the nest. (Gratto, 2000; Seattle Audubon Society, 2011)
Marbled godwits breed one time each year between May and August. They group together loosely, but their groups don't have strict territories. Their nests are shallow hollows in the ground. They are lined with grasses and lichen or moss and leaves. Female marbled godwits almost always lay 4 eggs, though they can lay 3 or 5. The eggs are tan or olive green and have dark brown or purplish-gray splotches. Parents work together to keep the eggs warm, and they take 24 to 26 days to hatch. Sometimes, parents work together to attack predators so they can defend their young. When the young are born, they are covered in downy feathers. Their eyes are open, and they can walk and even try to eat right after they are born. They leave the nest after 1 to 2 days, and can fly 26 to 30 days after they hatch. (Gratto, 2000; Seattle Audubon Society, 2011)
Parents of marbled godwits work together to keep the eggs warm for 24 to 26 days. For the first 15 to 26 days, they protect and watch over the chicks. The mother usually leaves, but males stay with the young until they can fly. (Seattle Audubon Society, 2011)
Marbled godwits live a long time. The longest life of a marbled godwit in the wild was 30 years. (Vuilleumier, 2009)
Marbled godwits spend most of their time on the ground, and can walk quickly as well as run. They migrate from summer breeding locations to winter habitats. They fly in a strong, swift, and direct way. They can also swim if they are searching for food in deep water. They spend most of their day searching for food. They can be aggressive, but this usually happens during the breeding season. Marbled godwits often group together with whimbrels and long-billed curlews, as they look for food along the shoreline. (Gratto, 2000; Seattle Audubon Society, 2011)
Marbled godwits have large territories where they feed and have their nests. They need the area to be big enough so that there are dry areas as well as wetlands. Most marbled godwits spend their entire lives within North America. (Croneweth, 2012; Dechant, et al., 2001)
Marbled godwits communicate by making noises, or calling. They also use body language, or physical displays, especially when choosing mates or interacting with predators. Their call is nasally, and sounds like a crowing or laughing "ah, ha" or "ahk." They have a special call they use when they enter a group of marbled godwit. This probably makes the group less likely to be aggressive. (Cornell University, 2011)
Marbled godwits change their diet depending on the time of year and place where they live. During the winter or when they are living on the coast, they eat mostly annelid worms, small bivalves, crabs, and earthworms. During the summer of while they are inland, they eat mostly insects like grasshoppers, aquatic plant tubers, leeches, and small fish. Marbled godwits move slowly while feeding. They poke around for food underneath the mud with their bill. Often, they stick their whole bill into the mud, sometimes with their whole head under water as well. (Gratto, 2000; Seattle Audubon Society, 2011)
Marbled godwits were hunted in the 1800’s because they lived in really flocks and were easy to hunt, and also because they are big and have flavorful meat. Today, they are eaten by raccoons and skunks when they nest close to developed areas. (Croneweth, 2012)
Marbled group together in flocks with whimbrels and long-billed curlews along shorelines while they search for food. They get infected with avian botulism. Parasites inside their bodies include roundworms only living on marbled godwits, and other roundworms that infect many shorebirds. Other kinds of roundworms that infect them are called Sobolevicephalus lichtenfelsi, Viktoracana limosae, V. capillaris, and Stellocaronema skrjabiniin. Many kinds of mites live outside their bodies that are called Austromenopon limosae, Actornithophilus limosae, Carduiceps clayae, Lunaceps clayae, Rotundiceps cordatus, Saemundssonia. (Croneweth, 2012; Gratto, 2000; Seattle Audubon Society, 2011)
There are no known negative economic impacts caused by marbled godwits.
Birders and tourists like to watch marbled godwits. Speical Godwit Days feature lectures, field trips, boat trips and workshops about marbled godwits.
Marbled godwits are not endangered according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but they are protected under the United States Migratory Bird Act. Scientists estimate that there are about 171,500 marbled godwits alive. Their numbers have increased since they have been protected from hunting. However, they are currently threatened by loss of wetlands, which they need for breeding and nesting sites. (Croneweth, 2012; Seattle Audubon Society, 2011)
Brooks Kennedy (author), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Robert Sorensen (editor), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Catherine Kent (editor), Special Projects.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.
a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
to jointly display, usually with sounds, at the same time as two or more other individuals of the same or different species
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
helpers provide assistance in raising young that are not their own
humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.
animals that generate their own body heat through metabolic processes.
an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and the fresh and saltwater mixes
parental care is carried out by females
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
mainly lives in water that is not salty.
Found in northern North America and northern Europe or Asia.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
parental care is carried out by males
marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
this biome is characterized by large expanses of coniferous forest, there is an extended cold season and heavy snowfall.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in very cold places -- either close to polar regions or high on mountains. Part of the soil stays frozen all year. Few kinds of plants grow here, and these are low mats or shrubs not trees. The growing season is short.
uses sight to communicate
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