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Tale of the Black Tailed Godwit

One Voice for Animals UK Guest Blog by Alex Foster

Education & Outreach Coordinator at Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital

Black tailed godwit in wild

What is a Black-Tailed Godwit?

Black-Tailed Godwits are medium-sized, long-legged wading birds, renowned for

their remarkably long migrations and distinctive plumage. Their slender bills,

warm reddish-brown plumage and characteristic black tails are a cherished

sight in the birdwatching community.

Females are typically bigger and heavier than the males, with a noticeably longer

beak. They reside in coastal areas or wetlands and during their annual migrations. They undertake some of the longest journeys in the avian world spanning the Indian Subcontinent, Australia, Africa and Western Europe!

Black-Tailed Godwits are a rare sight in the UK, only stopping off at a select few of our wetlands and estuaries during the winter months to breed. These sites must be specially managed and protected by conservation organisations to ensure the best chances of the Black-Tailed Godwits’ breeding success. Devastatingly, 97% of our wetland habitats have been lost to agriculture and flooding in recent years, meaning that the Black-Tailed Godwit is desperately struggling to breed in the UK. As a predominantly ground-dwelling species, their nests of chicks are particularly vulnerable to flooding and predation. The species was extinct in the UK around 200 years ago but, due to wonderful conservation efforts, approximately 60 breeding pairs have been noted across the small number of managed sites we have in Eastern England.

Blacktailed Godwit in rehab

The Tale of the Black-Tailed Godwit at Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital

At the beginning of August 2023, a male Black-Tailed Godwit was found in central Chichester, West Sussex, with wounds to his neck and chest, thought to have been sustained from a predator attack.

Thanks to the initial support of Arun Veterinary Group his wounds were quickly treated and

stitched up. He was then transferred to Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital for ongoing rehabilitation and care, in preparation for his release.

Due to the ongoing threat of Avian Influenza and with water birds being of a higher

risk, he was placed in an isolated water-pool enclosure for his first 2 weeks at Brent Lodge. Here he received antibiotics and pain relief whilst his stitched-up wounds healed. He was then moved to another water pool enclosure to continue his rehabilitation.

This is the first time that the team at Brent Lodge have ever encountered a Black-Tailed Godwit, so naturally, the team were very keen to treat and see him through to a successful release. He was fed on insects including live mealworms, waxworms and universal bogena bird food and was able to drink from, and wade in, the water-pools in his enclosures. As with all wild animals, the team used minimal handling with him and only did so to monitor and remove his stitches, administer medication and to transport him from each enclosure and finally for his release.

When he was showing clear signs of recovery, he was assessed for release. A release sight was carefully chosen at the nearby RSPB Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve, just 5 minutes down the road from Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital. Home to thousands of migratory and native birds, the reserve has over 1,500 acres of extensive wetland area – an ideal location for this stunning bird to reside for his winter migration among other potential godwits.

Introduction: Who Are Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital?

Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital, in Sidlesham (West Sussex), has been operating as a charity and wildlife hospital for over 50 years. They treat, rehabilitate and release all kinds of sick, injured or orphaned British wildlife – from hedgehogs and deer to wrens and peregrine falcons! Patients are often brought to the hospital by concerned members of the public who have phoned for advice or pre-assessed casualties from RSPCA Inspectors or by local vets.

Brent Lodge logo

To support Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital, please visit their website – or find them on most social media channels. As a small charity hospital, they rely on kind donations to keep their amazing work going. They also have Wish Lists for items they desperately need all year round to help the animals in their care.

If you find a wild animal in need, please call your local wildlife rehabilitation centre for advice. For more information on Black-Tailed Godwits and their conservation status, please visit the RSPB or The Wildlife Trusts websites.

Last but not least…

A big thank you to the teams at Arun Veterinary Group, Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital

and RSPB Pagham Harbour for all playing a vital role in this beautiful Black-Tailed Godwit’s journey to recovery!


One Voice for Animals UK has a rescue directory of almost 300 organisations that need support. If you enjoyed this blog, head over and find your local rescue and make a donation

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