Bird GuideSandpipersHudsonian Godwit

At a Glance

Once thought to be very rare, even endangered, this big sandpiper was probably just overlooked on its long migration between the Arctic and southern South America. In spring it moves north across the Great Plains, pausing at marshes and flooded fields more often than at the mudflats thronged by other shorebirds. In fall, most fly nonstop from James Bay, Canada, to South America. Some stop in fall on our Atlantic Coast, especially when driven there by northeasterly winds.
Sandpiper-like Birds, Sandpipers
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands, Tundra and Boreal Habitats
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Texas, Western Canada
Direct Flight, Running

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Migrates north mostly through Great Plains. Southward migration mostly off Atlantic Coast, most apparently flying nonstop from James Bay, Ontario, to northern South America. Adults migrate south earlier than juveniles in fall.


15" (38 cm). Typical godwit bill with pink base. In breeding plumage, rich chestnut below with black barring (females somewhat paler). Fall adults and juveniles much grayer and plainer than Marbled Godwit. Flying birds in all plumages show striking black on underside of wing and contrasting black tail, white rump.
About the size of a Crow
Black, Brown, Gray, Red, White
Wing Shape
Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

A loud kerreck or god-wit call, similar to call of Marbled Godwit but higher pitched. Usually silent.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Scream, Whistle


Marshes, prairie pools, mudflats; edge of tundra in summer. Spring migrants are usually on shallow marshy lakes, flooded pastures, rice fields, mudflats around ponds. Fall migrants on Atlantic Coast may be on marshy ponds or tidal flats. Nesting habitat in far north is near treeline, where patches of tundra, open woods, and ponds are mixed.



4, rarely 3. Dark olive-brown, with rather obscure brown blotches. Incubation is by both sexes, about 22-25 days.


Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Young find all their own food, but are tended by both parents. Adults are very aggressive in defense of young. Young are able to fly at about 30 days.

Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly by walking in shallow water, probing with bill in mud of bottom. Often wades so deeply that head is underwater part of the time.


Insects, mollusks, crustaceans, marine worms. Diet not well known. On breeding grounds, may feed mostly on insects, including many flies and their larvae. During migration, may feed on marine worms, mollusks, and crustaceans on coast, mostly insects inland.


In display over nesting territory, male flies high, calling; at peak of display, he glides with wings in shallow "V" while calling intensely for up to a minute or more, then dives toward ground. Male often perches on treetop; in courtship, pursues female in flight. Nest site is on ground in sedge marsh, usually on top of hummock under prostrate dwarf shrub, sometimes in tussock of grass. Very well concealed, extremely hard to find. Nest is shallow depression in vegetation, with sparse lining of leaves.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Numbers were seriously depleted in late 19th century by unrestricted shooting. Current population not large but probably stable.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Hudsonian Godwit. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Hudsonian Godwit

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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