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#ABArare – Black-tailed Godwit – Texas

Ron Weeks found a Black-tailed Godwit (Code 3) with two Hudsonian Godwits (and later joined by a third Hudsonian) at Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) on June 4. Black-tailed Godwit is a “good” bird anywhere in North America, but most records are from Alaska and the Atlantic coast. This will be a first state record for Texas if/when accepted.

ABArare Black-tailed Godwit Lindsey 1 crop
photo by Michael Lindsey

Brazoria NWR is located on the upper Texas coast, east of the city of Lake Jackson. Weeks found the godwit on a pond on the west side of CR 227 about a half-mile south of FM 2004. The pond is not shown on this map, but the roads are shown. If you’re having trouble finding the area on this map, it’s to the northwest of the spot marked “Hoskins Mound”. Mapquest reports this site as being a 55-60 mile drive from downtown Houston and a 75-80 mile drive from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (airport code IAH), with drive times of about 1 hour and 1 hour 30 minutes respectively, but I’m guessing that’s optimistic unless you’re driving through Houston in the very early morning hours.

The key field mark separating Black-tailed from Hudsonian Godwit is the Black-tailed’s white underwing (black in Hudsonian), as both species have a black tail. Besides the white underwings, Weeks also reported seeing the following features supporting the identification: “a stouter, straighter bill, bolder wing stripe extending into the secondaries…and larger size versus Hudsonian Godwits in the same pond.”

ABArare Black-tailed Godwit Lindsey 2 crop
Black-tailed Godwit showing white underwings Photo by Michael Lindsey

Two subspecies of Black-tailed Godwit are known from the ABA Area: L. limosa islandica from the East Coast and L. l. melanuroides from Alaska. Breeding males of L. l. islandica have a deeper red color in breeding plumage. This individual does not (yet?) have the plumage of a breeding male, and I have not read any guesses as to which subspecies it is.

There were many updates on Texbirds yesterday about this bird. Birders will be out again today looking for it, and I’m sure they’ll continue providing updates to Texbirds.

Brazoria NWR is part of the Coastal Plains Loop (not the nearby Brazoria Loop) of the Upper Texas Coast portion of the Great Texas Birding Trail. Check out these links for other places to bird in the area.

UPDATE: The Black-tailed Godwit is being seen this morning, June 5.