Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Migration ecology and morphometrics of two Bar-tailed Godwit populations in Australia

J. R. Wilson A D , S. Nebel B and C. D. T. Minton C

A Sandneset, 8380 Ramberg, Norway.

B School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

C 165 Dalgetty Road, Beaumaris, Vic. 3193, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: jimwils@frisurf.no

Emu 107(4) 262-274 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MU07026
Submitted: 30 April 2007  Accepted: 3 October 2007   Published: 5 December 2007

Abstract

Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) are long-distance migratory shorebirds. About a third of the global population migrate to Australia during the non-breeding season where they occur mainly in the north-west and east. Using measurements of bill, wing, tarsus and total-head (head and bill), we show that birds from the two main Australian non-breeding regions belong to separate populations. Individuals in north-western Australia are subspecies L. l. menzbieri, which breeds in north-eastern Russia, whereas those in south-eastern Australia are subspecies L. l. baueri, which breeds in northern and western Alaska. Resightings and recoveries of marked birds showed that there is little exchange between the two populations on the non-breeding grounds. They also take different routes during northward migration: L. l. menzbieri was more frequent on staging areas in the western Yellow Sea and largely absent from Japan, whereas L. l. baueri was more numerous in the eastern Yellow Sea and was often recorded in Japan. L. l. baueri left on northward migration 1–2 weeks earlier than L. l. menzbieri and gained more body mass before departure, presumably in preparation for a longer migratory leg. Our data suggest that on northward migration, L. l. menzbieri and L. l. baueri make direct flights of 5400–6200 km and 8200–8500 km, respectively, to reach staging areas in East Asia. The route of Limosa l. menzbieri on its southern passage is similar to that of northward migration, with stop-overs in East Asia. Limosa l. baueri, however, make an ~10 400-km non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean from Alaska to eastern Australia, one of the longest non-stop migratory flights known amongst birds.

Additional keywords: body mass, Charadriiformes, East Asian-Australasian Flyway, migration routes, shorebirds.


References

Able K. P. Belthoff J. R. 1998 Rapid ‘evolution’ of migratory behaviour in the introduced house finch of Eastern North America. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences 265 2063 2071 DOI

Alerstam T. Hedenström A. Åkesson S. 2003 Long-distance migration: evolution and determinants. Oikos 103 247 260 DOI

Anon.  (1998). National counts of shorebirds in Japan 1998. Japan Wetlands Action Network, Aichi, Japan. Report.

Antonov A. 2003 A shorebird census of Schastya Bay and the Amur estuary, sea of Oktotsk, Russia, from 6 August–21 September 2002. Stilt 44 52 55

Barter M. A. 1989 a Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica in Australia, Part 1: Races, breeding areas and migration routes. Stilt 14 43 48


Barter M. A. 1989 b Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica in Australia, Part 2: weight, moult and breeding success. Stilt 14 49 53


Barter M. A. (2002). Shorebirds of the Yellow Sea: importance, threats and conservation status. Wetlands International Global Series 9 and International Wader Studies 12, Canberra.

Barter M. A. Riegen A. 2004 Northward shorebird migration through Yalu Jiang National Nature Reserve. Stilt 46 9 14


Barter M. A. Wang T. H. 1990 Can waders fly non-stop from Australia to China? Stilt 17 36 39


Barter M. Xu Q. 2004 Northward shorebird migration surveys in 2004 at three Yellow Sea sites in Jiangsu and Shandong Provinces. Stilt 46 2 8


Barter M. A. Wilson J. R. Li Z. W. Li Y. X. Yang C. Y. Li X. J. Liu Y. F. Tian H. S. 2000 Northward migration of shorebirds in the Shuangtaizihekou National Nature Reserve, Liaoning Province, China in 1998 and 1999. Stilt 37 2 10


Barter M. Gosbell K. Calo L. Xu Q. 2005 Northward shorebird migration surveys in 2005 at four new Yellow Sea sites in Jiangsu and Liaoning Provinces. Stilt 48 13 17


Battley P. F. Rogers D. I. Piersma T. Koolhaas A. 2003 Behavioural evidence for heat load problems in Great Knots in tropical Australia fuelling for long-distance flight. Emu 103 97 103
DOI

Beasly L. Minton C. Jessop R. Collins P. 2004 Sightings of waders leg-flagged in Victoria: report number 10. Stilt 46 54 64

Chatto R. (2002). The Distribution and Status of Shorebirds Around the Coast and Coastal Wetlands of the Northern Territory. Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, Technical Report No. 73.

Cristol D. A. Baker M. B. Carbone C. 1999 Differential migration revisited: latitudinal segregation by age and sex class. Current Ornithology 15 33 88


Driscoll P. (1997). The distribution of waders along the Queensland coastline. In ‘Shorebird Conservation in the Asia-Pacific Region’. (Ed. P. Straw.) pp. 80–122. (Australasian Wader Studies Group: Brisbane.)

Driscoll P. and Ueta M. (2000). Satellite Tracking Eastern Curlews (Numenius madagascariensis) on Northward Migration from Moreton Bay and Westernport. Techniques, Flight Performance, Migration Routes and Strategies. Queensland Environment Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Engelmoer M., and Roselaar C. S. (1998). ‘Geographical Variation in Waders.’ (Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht, Netherlands.)

Evans P. R. 1986 Correct measurement of wing length of waders. Wader Study Group Bulletin 48 10 11


Gerasimov Y. Gerasimov N. N. 2000 The importance of the Moroshechnaya river estuary as a staging site for shorebirds. Stilt 36 20 25


Gill R. E. Jr Piersma T. Hufford G. Rene S. Riegen A. 2005 Crossing the ultimate ecological barrier: evidence for an 11 000-km-long nonstop flight from Alaska to New Zealand and Eastern Australia by Bar-tailed Godwits. Condor 107 1 20
DOI

Gudmundsson G. A. Alerstam T. 1998 Optimal map projections for analysing long-distance migration routes. Journal of Avian Biology 29 597 605 DOI

Higgins P. J., and Davies S. J. J. F. (Eds) (1996). ‘Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 3: Snipes to Pigeons.’ (Oxford University Press: Melbourne.)

Huettman F. 2003 Shorebird migration on northern Sakhalin Island, Russia in early northern autumn 2002. Stilt 43 34 39

Kejia Z. Hassell C. Boyle A. 2006 Banding and flagging of shorebirds in Chongming Dongtan wetland during the northward migration of 2005. Stilt 49 27 31


McCaffery B., and Gill R. (2001). Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa lapponica). In ‘The Birds of North America, Vol. 581’. (Eds A. Poole and F. Gill.) pp. 1–36. (The Birds of North America Inc.: Philadelphia, PA.)

Minton C. 2005 a What have we learned from banding and flagging waders in Australia? International Wader Studies 17 116 142


Minton C. 2005 b A small catch of Godwits with big returns. Tattler 42 7


Minton C. Jessop R. Collins P. Graham D. 2001 Sightings of waders leg-flagged in Victoria: report number 8. Stilt 39 48 60


Minton C. Jessop R. Collins P. Deleyev J. Beasly L. 2002 Sightings of waders leg-flagged in Victoria: report number 9. Stilt 42 56 72


Minton C. D. T. Rogers K. G. Jessop R. E. Graham D. M. Lowther A. D. 2006 Biometrics and moult of the Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea in Australia. International Wader Studies 19 195 204


Moores N. 1999 A survey of the distribution and abundance of shorebirds in South Korea during 1998–1999: interim summary. Stilt 34 18 29


Nebel S. 2007 Differential migration of shorebirds in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. Emu 107 14 18
DOI

Pienkowski M. W. Knight P. J. Stanyard D. J. Argyle F. B. 1976 The primary moult of waders on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Ibis 118 347 365

Piersma T. (2006). Migration in the balance: tight ecological margins and the changing fortunes of shorebird populations. In ‘Waterbirds Around the World’. (Eds G. C. Boere, C. A. Galbraith and D. A. Stroud.) pp. 74–80. (The Stationary Office: Edinburgh, UK.)

Piersma T. Jukema J. 1990 Budgeting the flight of a long-distance migrant: changes in nutrient reserve levels of bar-tailed godwits at successive spring staging sites. Ardea 78 315 337


Riegen A. C. 1999 Movements of banded Arctic waders to and from New Zealand. Notornis 46 123 142


Rogers K. G. 1995 a Bivariate sexing criteria for Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Eastern Curlew. Stilt 27 21 26


Rogers K. G. 1995 b SHEBA: computer programs for sexing birds on measurements using univariate data. Corella 19 25 34


Rogers K. G. 1995 c Eastern Curlew biometrics: based on bivariate separation of the sexes. Stilt 26 23 34


Rogers K. G. 2001 Radde’s Accentor Prunella ocularis in northern Iran. Sandgrouse 23 10 17


Rynn S. (1982). revision of the taxonomy of the genus Limosa. Ph.D. Thesis, Liverpool Polytechnic, Liverpool.

Sagar P. M. Shankar U. Brown S. 1999 Distribution and numbers of waders in New Zealand, 1983–1994. Notornis 46 1 44


Skinner N. J. 1983 The occurrence of waders at Suva Point, Fiji. Notornis 30 227 232


Snow D. W. (1967). ‘A Guide to Moult in British Birds.’ BTO Guide 11. (British Trust for Ornithology: Tring, England, UK.)

Stinson D. W. Wiles G. J. Reichel J. D. 1997 Occurrence of migrant shorebirds in the Mariana Islands. Journal of Field Ornithology 68 42 55


SYSTAT (2005). ‘Statistics.’ (SYSTAT Software Inc.: Richmond, CA.)

Thompson J. 1990 The sex and age-related distribution of Bar-tailed Godwits in Moreton Bay, Queensland, during the northward migration. Emu 90 169 174


Tomkovich P. S. Serra L. 1999 Morphometrics and prediction of breeding origin in some Holarctic waders. Ardea 87 289 300


Tulp I. McChesney S. de Goeij P. 1994 Migratory departures of waders from northwestern Australia: behaviour, timing and possible migration routes. Ardea 82 201 221


van de Kam J., Ens B., Piersma T., and Zwarts L. (2004). ‘Shorebirds. An Illustrated Behavioural Ecology.’ (KNNV Publishers: Utrecht, Netherlands.)

Wang H. (1997). Shorebird use of Yancheng Biosphere Reserve, China. In ‘Shorebird Conservation in the Asia-Pacific Region’. (Ed. P. Straw.) pp. 149–154. (Australasian Wader Studies Group: Brisbane.)

Watkins D. (1993). National Plan for Shorebird Conservation in Australia. RAOU Report No. 90. (Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, Australasian Wader Studies Group, and World Wide Fund for Nature: Canberra.)

Wetlands International (2006). ‘Waterbird Population Estimates.’ 4th edn. (Wetlands International: Wageningen, Netherlands.)

Wilson J. R. Barter M. A. 1998 Identification of potentially important staging areas for ‘long jump’ migrant waders in the East–Australasian Flyway during northward migration. Stilt 32 16 27


Zhu S. Y. Li Z. W. Lu J. Z. Shan K. Barter M. A. 2001 Northward migration of shorebirds through the Huang He Delta, Shandong Province, in the 1997–1999 period. Stilt 38 33 38


Zwarts L. Ens B. J. Kersten M. Piersma T. 1990 Moult, mass and flight range of waders ready to take off for long-distance migrations. Ardea 78 339 364




Export Citation