“In January 2013, I was captivated by the feeding activity of Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica, Maori name: Kuaka) as they foraged along the shallow waters and exposed substrate of the Estuary of Avon/Heathcote in South Island, New Zealand, tramping around with muddy bills and muddy feet (above).

“Very often, the entire length of their pinkish bills would be fully inserted into the soft sediment as they repeatedly probed for their food (above).

“A major constituent of their diet are polychaete worms (Welch, 2009), and this was consistently verified as the godwits demonstrated their expertise at extracting them one after another (above and below).

“A brief video clip of its feeding activity may be previewed above.

“Close by, some cunning Red-billed Gulls (Larus novaehollandiae) had clear intentions to steal a juicy worm or two from the Godwits (above).

“A brief video clip of this attempt to steal worms may be previewed above.

“After all the feasting on those muddy worms, washing up and preening was absolutely essential. They often begin by splashing their long bills on the water surface to wash off all traces of mud (above).

“Next, they tap their feet on the water before scratching their chin or wiping the base of their bill (above).

“Content with their cleaned bills and washed feet, they then proceed to groom themselves methodically (above). At frequent intervals, they habitually dip the tip of their bill on the water surface before bringing the bill back to their feathers.

“A brief video clip of its preening activity may be previewed above.”

Dr. Leong Tzi Ming
17th February 2013

Welch, D. 2009. Return of the Godwit. New Zealand Geographic, Number 95: 70–81.

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