Field Notes: large, bulky, long-legged shorebird; very long bill is slightly upturned, with a orange-pink base and black tip. Breeding adult plumage is warm tawny-brown, mottled with black above, barred below. Juvenile & non-breeding/winter plumage is mottled above, plain buffy-brown below. In flight, all birds show cinnamon wing linings and along the trailing edge of upper wings.
Marbled Godwits breed in the northern prairies (southern Canada & northern US), with small populations along the coast of James Bay in Ontario and the western coast of Alaska. In winter, they are common in large flocks on mudflats and estuaries along the California coast and west coast of Mexico; present but in smaller numbers along the east and Gulf coasts.
Their loud 'korreck korreck korretica' call is a familiar sound around prairie sloughs in spring and summer.
They are one of the first shorebird migrants to arrive on the breeding grounds - not too far to travel.
The nest is a scrape, well concealed in grass, near water, sometimes covered with a canopy of grass. 3-5 olive green eggs are incubated for about 24 days. Both adults incubate the eggs. The adults are very protective; the incubating adult may not flush from the nest when discovered. The young leave the nest soon after hatching and are independent about three weeks after that. The female usually leaves at this point; the male stays with the young until they learn to fly.
Marbled Godwits are long-lived and monogamous.
The summer diet is mostly insects, roots and seeds. During migration they eat plant tubers almost exclusively. The winter diet in coastal areas is mollusks, crustaceans and worms.
Marbled Godwits are often found in company with Long-billed Curlews. These two species are very similar in plumage. It is often difficult to distinguish sleeping birds when you can't see the bill shape. Long-billed Curlews are larger, have longer, decurved bills and paler legs than the godwits.
The conservation status of this species is listed as 'Least Concern'. Numbers decreased dramatically during the 1800s, but have been steadily increasing since a hunting ban was put in place in the early twentieth century. Probably because large portions of its former breeding habitats are now cropland, it has not increased in numbers to repopulate its former breeding range.
All About Birds
Birds of North America On-line, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Web Bird, Seattle Audubon Societyhttp://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/bird/marbled_godwit#
The Shorebird Guide. Michael O'Brian, Richard Crossley & Kevin Karlson
The Encyclopedia of North American Birds, Michael Vanner, Paragon Publishing