Marbled Godwits – A Grassland Shorebird

Marbled Godwit in a Florida lagoon

Marbled Godwit in a Florida lagoon

Marbled Godwits are large shorebirds that winter along the coast lines of the Gulf of Mexico, Baja Peninsula as well as the Atlantic and Pacific coasts but they breed in grasslands and grassy marshes of the Great Plains both in Canada and the U.S. including some areas of Alaska.

Degradation of habitat on both wintering and breeding ground is a serious threat to Marbled Godwits. On BNA (Birds of North America Online) they state:

 Worldwide, grasslands most imperiled ecosystem. Huge decrease in historic grasslands in North America: <1% intact in some areas (Sampson and Knopf 1996).

Less than one percent of grasslands in North America? Wow.  Agriculture is a threat as are the permanent losses of habitat from oil and gas pipeline routes that are replanted with non-native grasses that are taller than what is suitable for Marbled Godwits to use. And those persons who think that the Keystone XL Pipeline is a good idea are dreaming because the pipeline would go through what is left of the habitat for these amazing shorebirds.

Let’s be real, those pipelines are going to permanently damage habitat for far more birds and animals than just the Godwits. They will say the pipeline is going to be safe but how many times have we heard that to see damage wrought later and those companies sit there and don’t want to take blame? Exxon Valdez. DDT. Deepwater Horizon. The list goes on and on.

I hope that in 100 years Marbled Godwits will still be on this planet and future generations won’t know them only from images like mine and skins in a museum.

Mia

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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.

10 Comments

  1. Experiencing the grasslands of this continent is something I have been wanting to do for awhile. I heard an NPR story about how the governor of Nebraska has approved the pipeline without consulting the legislature or voters of his state.

    I have yet to photograph a Marbled Godwit, but perhaps I might on my next two adventures-Cape May next week and Nebraska next April!

  2. Wonderful photograph, Mia! My next post will have a few images of migrant Marbled Godwits which I found at the local Air Force base. What beautiful birds! Hope they are around for my great grandchildren to enjoy.

  3. I photographed a marbled godwit at Gateway National Recreation Area, Breezy Point , NY this summer and share your sentiments.
    The NPS has selected a new management plan, Alternative B: Discovering Gateway as their preferred GMP, despite the fact that they have identified Alternative C: Experiencing Preserved Places as the environmentally preferable option. This Plan would be likely to degrade the condition of wildlife, habitats, and natural resources throughout Gateway, ultimately diminishing the potential for enjoyment of these resources by future generations.

    Shouldn’t it be the responsibility of NPS to work to protect these natural treasures? NYC Audubon is encouraging conservation-minded individuals to provide feedback about the Plan and to ask them to adopt alternative C to guide their new planning and management principles. The preservation of Gateway’s wildlife habitat must be given first priority in the final General Management Plan, to ensure that Gateway continues to be a refuge for imperiled birds and other wildlife. NYC Audubon has a guide for responding that you may copy and paste into the comment form, or you can edit them or write your own as you see fit. Comments must be submitted through the NPS comment form by end of day on Wednesday, October 2 (or to be more precise, 1:59am on Thursday, October 3.) Here is their link:
    http://www.nycaudubon.org/gateway-gmp
    Thanks!

  4. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    We have been fortunate in that a huge estate has been donated to the Audubon Society around here… of grasslands! no one knew was here. Audubon now is trying so hard to raise the importance of this gift is in the eyes of the public but it’s difficult… It sometimes feels so futile to work year after year and see so little for efforts that just take superhuman effort… but each time I am part of it, the very fact that it is still there… that people (even such a small group) are still working to preserve this little grassland sanctuary here in New England. It’s gorgeous this time of year. I just came from there and can’t tell you what a treasure it is.

  5. It frightens me the number of species (animal, botanic, avian) that our greed has put at such extreme risk. And how I hope that you are right and that the Godwits (and the other endangered species) survive.

  6. Good to see our Godwits have made it to your parts. Almost a different bird in non-breeding plumage. And, as always, a perfect shot, from your signature low angle.

    The triple threat of winter and migration habitat loss, the hazards of the Alberta Tar Sands in migration and the loss of native grasslands to agriculture have made the Marbled Godwit an Audubon species of concern. The Keystone XL Pipeline is a further threat. A spill of the toxic bitumen from such a pipeline might well seal their fate, as well as the fates of dozens of other bird species that use the continental flyway. Keystone is a horrible idea, and not just because of habitat loss and the risk of a spill. Anything that encourages further development of the Alberta Tar Sands is bad.

  7. Astonishing detail of the birds feathers, and a perfect light .. really like how connected one feels to the birds in your photography Mia.. a great start to the day ;)

  8. Beautiful photo, Mia. We see those same birds here in the summer months.

  9. Beautiful Godwit that is.

  10. Humans do put ourselves first, don’t we? It’s a beautiful image, but a sad story like so many all round the world.

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