Conservation status Numbers were reduced by market hunting during 19th century; some recovery since, but now declining again as more of its nesting habitat is converted to farmland.
Family Sandpipers
Habitat Prairies, pools, shores, tideflats. Breeds mostly on northern Great Plains, in areas of native prairie with marshes or ponds nearby. Localized populations also nest on tundra at James Bay, Ontario, and on Alaska Peninsula. In migration and winter around tidal mudflats, marshes, ponds, mainly in coastal regions.
This big cinnamon-colored sandpiper inhabits the northern Great Plains in summer. When it leaves the prairies, the Marbled Godwit goes to coastal regions and becomes quite gregarious. Large flocks roost together in the salt meadows at high tide, or stand together in shallow water above the flats, probing deeply in the mud with their long bills.

Feeding Behavior

On mudflats and in marshes, forages mostly by probing in water or mud with long bill. Often wades and probes so deeply that head is underwater. Finds most food by touch; may feed by day or night. On prairies, also picks up insects from surface of ground or plants.


4, rarely 3-5. Greenish to olive-buff, lightly spotted with brown. Incubation is probably by both parents, 21-23 days. Incubating bird may sit motionless even when approached closely. Young: Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age of young at first flight roughly 3 weeks.


Downy young leave nest soon after hatching. Both parents tend young, but young find all their own food. Age of young at first flight roughly 3 weeks.


Includes insects, mollusks, crustaceans. In summer on prairies, feeds mostly on insects, including many grasshoppers; also roots and seeds of various aquatic plants, such as sedges and pondweeds. On coast, feeds on mollusks, marine worms, crustaceans, other invertebrates.


May nest in loose colonies. Male displays over breeding territory by flying over area, calling loudly. On ground, members of pair may go through ritualized nest-scrape making display. Nest site is on ground, usually in short grass on dry spot fairly close to water (sometimes far from water). Nest is slight depression, lined with dry grass. Occasionally has slight canopy of grass arranged above nest.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

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Migrates in flocks. Most birds move to coastal regions in winter. Some reach South America, but most winter north of Panama. A few birds (possibly one-year-olds) remain on winter range throughout the summer.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

A loud kerreck or god-wit, usually heard on breeding grounds.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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