birding-aus Bar-tailed Godwits in western Alaska

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Subject: birding-aus Bar-tailed Godwits in western Alaska
From: Rosalind Jessop <>
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 20:10:16 +1000
The Australasian Wader Studies Group recieved following exciting news
from Bob Gill in Alaska.  Could everyone please keep an eye out for
returning adult Bar-tailed Godwit.

COLOR-FLAGGED BAR-TAILED GODWITS.  From 4-10 September, Bob Gill and
Brian McCaffery observed staging bar-tailed godwits in western Alaska on
the southern
Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.  Earlier aerial surveys (Gill and McCaffery 1999,
Study Group Bulletin 88:49-54) indicated that the delta supported
thousands of
godwits, and we were not disappointed on our recent trip.  We estimated
at least
9,000 along the 10-km stretch of coastline where we worked.

   By following foraging flocks, as well as working high tide roosts, we
had a
chance to scan many thousands of legs for color flags.  We made dozens
observations of color-flagged godwits during our week in the field,
including at
least 28 different individuals.  We still need to contact banders in
and New Zealand to confirm their color-flagging protocols, but our
conclusions indicate that we observed 12 (14 confirmed) individuals from
southeastern Australia (orange flag), 8 (10 confirmed) from northeastern
Australia (green flag), and 8 (10 confirmed) from New Zealand (white
flag).  A proposed link to wintering grounds in New Zealand and possibly
eastern Australia had heretofore been based on reports of only three
marked birds obtained during the previous 45 years.  This information
that the Alaska breeding population of about 150,000 birds is distinct
from those breeding elsewhere in Asia and that Alaskan birds winter in
both eastern Australia and New Zealand.  Further, our failure to see any
birds that were marked on nonbreeding areas in northwestern Australia
(over 5,000 marked to date) supports the idea of the East
Asian-Australasian flyway having at least two distinct populations of
godwits, which are segregated from each other during almost their entire
annual cycles.

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