Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
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General Comments This Eurasian shorebird has appeared along the East Coast much more often than the Black-tailed Godwit. Whereas the latter is usually confused with Hudsonian Godwits, Bar-tailed Godwits can be confused with the large Marbled Godwit and especially with Long-billed Dowitcher (as this godwit is "small" and has somewhat short legs). North Carolina has a surprising number of records, all coastal, though some refer to the same individual bird.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G4
Coastal Plain Very rare visitor, with four spring and 10+ fall reports, all from the coast, plus one in winter. The spring reports are: 1, Portsmouth Island, 8-9 May 1992* [Chat 57:58 link]; 2, Portsmouth Island, 23 Apr - 9 May 1993* [Chat 58:63 link]; 1 photographed at Frisco (Dare), 8 Apr 2016* [Chat 80:115-116 link]; and 1 photographed at the eastern end of Shackleford Banks (Carteret) on 23 Apr 2018 (likely a bird that overwintered there). Fall reports are all of singles at Pea Island on 22 Jul 1998 [Chat 63:39 link], 31 Aug - 1 Sep 1971, 21 Sep 1975, and 14 Oct 1974; one photographed at Portsmouth Island, 22 Sep - 10 Oct 1982* [Chat 47:71-72 link]; one photographed at the eastern end of Shackleford Banks (Carteret), 2 Oct - 15 Nov 2016* [Chat 81:13-14 link]; and undoubtedly the same bird returning to the last site from 24 Sep - 8 Oct 2017 [Chat 82:32 link]. This latter bird returned for at least a third fall season, being seen beginning 10 Nov 2018, being joined by a second bird on 18 Nov 2018 [Chat 83:25 link]. One of these two birds remained for the entire winter of 2018-19, being noted there specifically on 12 Jan, 10 Feb, and 23 Mar 2019 [Chat 83:59 link]. One of these birds again returned for the fall 2019 season, seen there 30 Sep 2019, 24 Jan 2020, and 11 Mar 2020. Again, one of these birds returned in fall 2020, first seen on 13 Sep, and remaining at least to 23 Apr 2021 -- a fifth consecutive year a single bird, or the species, has been found there! This Shackleford Banks bird returned for a sixth (!) winter, first noted on 19 Sep 2021. It has since been seen a few times in fall/winter 2022-23 and in fall 2023 -- for apparently an 8th straight winter! However, this birds was seen there on 4-5 Dec 2023 but not on many trips later in the winter, giving rise to thoughts that it may have perished or moved farther away. Though perhaps none of these reports is suspect, as most were reported by experienced birders, documentation of several have been sparse, and the NC BRC has reviewed/accepted only about five of these.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips As the species has been seen now for at least six consecutive falls (2016-21) at the eastern end of Shackleford Banks, make a trip there at that season to look for it. You will most likely need to make a reservation on a ferry from Harkers Island to Cape Lookout, which makes a stop at the eastern end of Shackleford Banks for those who wish to explore the island for several hours.
Attribution LeGrand[2024-05-09], LeGrand[2024-02-10], LeGrand[2023-03-10]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.