Every once in a while, nature throws us a surprise wrinkle from what we think or expect. One of those surprises was found on Sunday October 2nd., when local birders discovered a bar-tailed godwit at Fort DeSoto Park! This was very strange for a bird that, in the United States, is typically only seen in Northwestern Alaska. One bar-tailed godwit did visit here in 2013 and another in 2016. There’s some wonder as to if it was the same bird on both occurrences.
The godwits nest in Northern Canada and make an extraordinary 7,000-mile, one-way, migration to their summer grounds in New Zealand. This harsh trip is very dangerous, because the very few places that they do have to stop along the way are seeing an alarmingly fast loss of wetlands.
The godwits primarily probe the wet soil with their long, slightly upward curved bill in search of worms, insects and crustaceans. They will return to Northern Canada in the Summers to breed when the frost melts and the soil thaws. So, the question remains as to why this bird is so far away from its normal summer grounds. Did it get blown off track by a storm? Is this the same bird that was here just a few years back and it knew there was plentiful food here? Is the loss of wetlands in the Western Pacific regions causing the birds to explore other pathways? We may not immediately know, but we can continue to monitor the birds’ movements and study individual birds with bands and tags.
This bird highlights the true fact that you never really know what you may encounter outdoors, unless you get out there and search for yourself. So, I encourage everyone to get a pair of binoculars, a bird or wildlife field guide, perhaps a camera and get out and see what you can discover today!