Spring moult in Black-tailed Godwits


Black-tailed Godwits will look and smell different by the end of May

130420 N6355 flock Cley-SP A spring flock of Black-tailed Godwits at Cley (Pat Wileman)

Before they return to Iceland in April or early May, wintering Black-tailed Godwits have got a lot of extra feeding to do, both to fuel their journeys north and to undertake a complete change of body feathers. The grey plumage that has protected them since the autumn is discarded, to be replaced by summer finery. Although more colourful, these feathers provide cryptic camouflage in the habitats in which the birds nest – and they have less odour too.

There is a lot of individual variation but the timing of the spring moult of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits seems to differ depending on the wintering area used by individuals. Many Icelandic birds that enjoy the sun in Portugal, for instance, can start to change colour before the turn of the…

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