Do Male Godwits Develop Black Bills in Breeding Plumage?

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Do Male Godwits Develop Black Bills in Breeding Plumage?
From: knightl <>
Date: Sat, 29 Mar 2003 15:20:26 +1000
I ventured down to the Thornside wader roost to try out a new teleconverter on my camera. The high tide was at 7.30 am, and it was fully in when I arrived - not much room for the waders, so they were flighty and the sun was in an inconvenient location.

Anyhow, there were quite a few birds getting into breeding plumage - the great knots were quite spotty and many had red wing coverts, there were a few reddish curlew sandpipers and a few godwits turning red. So far I haven't managed to find a red knot, though I think pre-breeding red-necked stint.

One of the godwits appeared atypical and had me wondering for a while whether it was a dowitcher. It had a good red chest flush [with a bit of pale mottling] with red on its face [dark cap and eye stripe]. It was halfway between a great knot and a regular godwit in size, and its bill was 3/4 the length of the other godwits. Its bill was black the full length of the upper mandible and pretty much the full length of the lower mandible - just a hint of colour at the very base in one or two shots. Its bill shape seemed to be more godwit-like than dowitcher-like.

My tentative conclusion is that it is a male bar-tailed godwit, and I would like to know if there are many records of black-billed godwits around?

On the subject of off colours, I also managed to photograph a fairy martin that had a brown tinge to its outer primary and a dark red-brown wash on its chest.

Regards, Laurie.

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