Limosa limosa 

Scope: Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

Scientific Name: Limosa limosa (Linnaeus, 1758)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Black-tailed Godwit
French Barge à queue noire
Taxonomic Source(s): Turbott, E.G. 1990. Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand. Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Wellington.
Identification information: 40-44cm. Large rather graceful wader, with long bill on a relatively small head, long neck and long legs. Colour of fore-body is dull pink-chestnut in summer, paler grey-brown in winter. In flight has a striking white wing-bar and rump. Similar spp. Unmistakeable in flight but sometimes difficult to separate from L. lapponica when on ground at distance. Told from the latter by its distinctive bill structure and much leggier and more erect appearance. Voice High-pitched, nasal, rather strident calls given during breeding season, most common of which is a weeka-weeka-weeka. Characteristic call of birds in flocks is a softer kip kip... or chut chut...

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2abcde+3bcde+4abcde (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-03-31
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ashpole, J, Burfield, I., Ieronymidou, C., Pople, R., Wheatley, H. & Wright, L
European regional assessment: Vulnerable (VU)
EU27 regional assessment: Endangered (EN)

This godwit has undergone rapid declines in Europe owing to changes in agricultural practices and is therefore classified as Vulnerable (A2abcde+3bcde+4abcde).

Within the EU27 declines have been more rapid and it is classified as Endangered (A2abcde+3bcde+4abcde).

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:In Europe, the species has a large breeding range extending from Iceland to throughout European Russia (Van Gils et al. 2014). Two subspecies are found in Europe, L. l. islandica and L. l. limosa. Subspecies islandica breeds predominantly in Iceland, with much smaller numbers in the Faroe Islands, Shetland (United Kingdom) and the Lofoten Islands (Norway). Significant numbers of this subspecies overwinter in France (Triplet et al. 2007). Subspecies limosa breeds across a wide area extending from western Europe and central Europe to central Asia and Asiatic Russia. The European population of this subspecies migrates south through France and Iberia to winter in West Africa (Gill et al. 2007, Oomen 2008).
Countries occurrence:
Albania; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Faroe Islands; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Gibraltar; Greece; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Italy; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Malta; Moldova; Montenegro; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation (European Russia); Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom
Greenland; Svalbard and Jan Mayen
Present - origin uncertain:
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:4570000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:11-100Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:22693150-1

Population [top]

Population:The European population is estimated at 102,000-149,000 pairs, which equates to 205,000-298,000 mature individuals. The population in the EU27 is estimated at 43,400-70,300 pairs, which equates to 86,800-141,000 mature individuals. For details of national estimates, see the Supplementary Material.

Trend Justification:  In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 30-49% in 25.8 years (three generations). In the EU27 the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 50-79% in the same period. For details of national estimates, see attached PDF.
For further information about this species, see 22693150_limosa_limosa.pdf.
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Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:205000-298000,245000Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:2-100Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:In its breeding range this species mostly inhabits areas with high grass and soft soil (Johnsgard 1981, Van Gils et al. 2014). Its preferred habitats include cattle pastures, hayfields (Johnsgard 1981), lowland wet grasslands, grassy marshland, raised bogs and moorland, lake margins and damp grassy depressions in steppes (Van Gils et al. 2014). Extensive farmland habitats are of critical importance for breeding populations in western European. In its non-breeding range, it inhabits wet damp areas around fish-ponds and sewage farms, tidal marshes, mud flats and salt-water lagoons (Cramp et al. 1983, Tucker and Heath 1994). Subspecies limosa tends to winter in freshwater habitats. Subspecies islandica, while it frequents staging sites at inland wetlands and flooded grasslands in the Netherlands, it often winters in brackish habitats (Van Gils et al. 2014). Despite these general differences there is considerable overlap in wintering habitat between populations of subspecies limosa and islandica (Various 2007). It breeds from April to mid-June in loose, semi-colonial groups (Gunnarsson et al. 2006). The nest is placed on the ground in short, often luxuriant vegetation (Johnsgard 1981, Cramp et al. 1983, Van Gils et al. 2014). It consists of a shallow scrape 12–15 cm in diameter, lined with a thick mat of stem grass, leaves and other available vegetation (Cramp et al. 1983). Clutch size is normally four (Van Gils et al. 2014). Its diet consists of adult and larval insects, annelid and polychaete worms, molluscs, ragworms, crustaceans, spiders, fish eggs, and the spawn and tadpoles of frogs (Johnsgard 1981, Van Gils et al. 2014). Particularly during the winter and on migration it will also take plant material including berries, seeds and rice grains (Cramp et al. 1983, Van Gils et al. 2014). This species is highly gregarious and migrates on a broad front, making long-distance flights, often overland between relatively few staging and wintering areas. The species migrates southwards between late-June and October (Van Gils et al. 2014). The eastern Atlantic flyway population has important staging areas on the Iberian peninsula and winters in western Africa.
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):8.6
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Loss of nesting habitat owing to wetland drainage and agricultural intensification, and conversely, abandonment, are the most significant threats (Kentie et al. 2013). Detrimental activities include the conversion of wet meadows to arable land, increased fertilisation and drainage of grassland (Roodbergen and Teunissen 2014), artificial flooding of nesting habitats, earlier and more frequent mowing as farmers adapt to earlier springs, spring burning, overgrowing by scrub, land claiming by businesses and developers, the construction of roads and parks, and disturbance by walkers (Tucker and Heath 1994, A. van Dijk in litt. 2005, A. Mischenko in litt. 2007, Hayhow 2008, Oomen 2008, Holm and Laursen 2009, Kleijn et al. 2010, Kentie et al. 2013). Increasing populations of predators to possibly unnatural levels is a significant cause of mortality in the Netherlands, exacerbated by intensive farming reducing available cover for the species (Schekkerman et al. 2009). In some areas, grassland turnover from 'natural, flower-rich, diverse and wet' to sillage monoculture leads to a loss of nests with eggs and chicks due to mowing and starvation of chicks due to a lack of food (Schekkerman and Beintema 2007). Habitat fragmentation may cause particular problems for this species, which nests in dispersed colonies and sub-colonies as protection against predators and may be unlikely to breed successfully in small areas of habitat. The planned development of a new airport near Lisbon is likely to have negative implications on an important site for migratory birds (Gill et al. 2007, Masero et al. 2011). Hunting has been another significant threat, although France has now followed the rest of the EU in implementing a five-year ban on hunting of the species, beginning in 2008 (I. Burfield in litt. 2008) which was extended in 2013 for a further five years. Outside the EU, hunting is known to occur but its scale and impact are unknown. Water pollution is probably an issue in parts of the species's range (H. Hötker in litt. 2005), and drought in the West African wintering quarters may have had negative impacts on the mainland European population (Tucker and Heath 1994). The Icelandic population is potentially at risk from the policy of the Icelandic government to encourage afforestation of the lowland habitats where they breed (S. Nagy in litt. 2005). Threats on migration include pollution, human disturbance, habitat reclamation for tidal energy plants, aquaculture ponds, land conversion for agriculture and urban expansion. A study in the Netherlands suggests that climate change has driven an advance in agricultural activities to the detriment of this species (Kleijn et al. 2010). Juvenile birds which select good wintering sites also select good breeding sites (Gunnarsson et al. 2005), therefore maintaining high quality wintering sites is crucial to raising productivity on breeding grounds and slowing the rate of decline. There is a marked decrease in the density of breeding birds near to roads, particularly those with heavy traffic (van der Zande et al. 1980, Reijnen et al. 1996). Natal philopatry means that a decrease in local recruitment could prove catastrophic for individual breeding sites (Kruk et al. 1998). A recent study shows that recruiters from good quality habitats disperse to low quality habitats that act as sinks and so these individuals are considered 'lost' to the population. This has repercussions for the effectiveness of agri-environment measures (Kentie 2015).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
EU Birds Directive Annex II. An EU management plan for 2007-2009 was adopted, and an AEWA action plan replaced it at the end of 2008 (Anon. 2008). Intensive management of breeding habitat has been carried out in some western European countries (H. Hötker in litt. 2005, Roodbergen & Teunissen 2014), and a number of agri-environment schemes focus on this species, although results have been mixed (Musters et al. 2001, S. Nagy in litt. 2005, Breeuwer et al. 2007, A. Mischenko in litt. 2007, Verhulst et al. 2007). It occurs in a number of protected areas.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Obtain more quantitative data on status, population trends and conservation requirements outside of Europe. Critically evaluate the effectiveness of current conservation action. In the EU, use a mixture of agri-environment schemes, direct payments to wader-friendly farmers (Musters et al. 2001) and large reserves to secure protection and appropriate management of breeding habitat; the coverage of agri-environment schemes in Europe should be increased (Kleijn et al. 2010) and increases in groundwater depth should be prioritised as an outcome (Verhulst et al. 2007). Establish nature reserves on important breeding sites throughout the species's range. Manage existing reserves appropriately: prescriptions include avoiding drainage of existing wet meadows, raising water tables where necessary, low-level use of organic fertiliser, low intensity grazing, late mowing, and prevention of succession to bushy vegetation; winter flooding is sometimes recommended but may reduce numbers of invertebrate prey (Gunnarsson et al. 2005). Ensure that migratory staging posts and winter feeding habitats and roosts are conserved and monitored, and knowledge of them is improved (Estrella and Masero 2010). Designate a Special Protection Area around Extremadura's rice fields, which is a key stopover site (Masero et al. 2011). Manage artificial habitats appropriately, e.g. maintain low water levels in salinas such so that they are available to foraging godwits (Estrella and Masero 2010), and block drainage to retain water in Iberian rice fields (Lourenço and Piersma 2008). Engage with governments and local people throughout its migration routes. Effectively enforce the EU-wide ban on hunting until there is clear evidence that the population has returned to a favourable conservation status. Safeguard habitats in Iberia, perhaps by offering support to rice producers (Gill et al. 2007). Collaborate with farmers and hunters, carrying out environmental education and outreach work where appropriate. Prevent afforestation of lowland breeding habitat in Iceland. Prevent a loss of key breeding areas due to abandonment of grasslands and meadows in eastern Europe. Monitor human disturbance as a threat. Ensure recognition as a protected animal throughout range (Hancock 2008).

Citation: BirdLife International. 2015. Limosa limosa. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T22693150A60029072. . Downloaded on 21 September 2018.
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