Your Bird­ing Month

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

Five birds to find this month in­clude Reed Bunt­ing, Sedge War­bler and Red­start

APRIL IS A great month for wader watch­ing. Most European waders breed in the far north in the Arc­tic, where the long days give them plenty of time to feed, there is plenty of food and rel­a­tively lit­tle dis­tur­bance, es­pe­cially by man. Dur­ing this month (and May) there is a surge of birds head­ing back north to the breed­ing grounds. The UK pro­vides a stopover place, to quickly feed and re-en­er­gise be­fore con­tin­u­ing the rush to set up ter­ri­tory and breed. One species which surges through the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in the last cou­ple of weeks of April, is the Bar-tailed Godwit. Un­like the Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed God­wits do not breed here and are strictly pas­sage birds (as well as win­ter­ers). ‘Bar­wits’ are more coastal in their habi­tat pref­er­ences than ‘Black­wits’, feed­ing on sandy and muddy shores and es­tu­ar­ies. But in spring, they also turn up in­land, as they cross through the coun­try on pas­sage. Bar-tailed God­wits are among the most ob­vi­ously sex­u­ally di­mor­phic of all the waders. Fe­males are much big­ger, with longer bills and a pale curlew-like plumage which looks like the win­ter plumage of both birds. Males are smaller, with finer (black) bills and, in breed­ing colours have deep brick red un­der­parts, with the ru­fous colour stretch­ing back be­hind the legs to the un­der­tail coverts (which are white in Black-tailed God­wits). In breed­ing plumage they are ar­guably among our most hand­some waders. In all plumages Bar-tailed God­wits are stock­ier, shorter-legged, shorter-necked birds than Black-tailed God­wits, lack the lat­ters’ bold white wing bar and have a curlew-like white rump and lower back (and a barred tail!).

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