Food sources for the bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica) on its annual journey to Alaska have been depleted, but researchers have devised a plan to keep them fed. Godwits travel 17,000 km from the southern hemisphere to the north, and back every year. After leaving New Zealand in March, thousands of godwits have made it to China‘s Yalu Jiang National Nature reserve. However, after experiencing the coldest winter in almost half a century, clams at the mudflat have been dying off. They‘re an important food source for the birds, but there‘s only around five percent of their usual abundance.
Associate Professor Phil Battley, from Massey University‘s Wildlife and Ecology Group, said godwits would spend 40 to 45 days at the spot after a 10,000 kilometre journey. “Even that flight to Alaska is still a 5,000 kilometre flight, they have a three-and-a-half to four day flight they‘re preparing for, while also having to make sure they have enough energy for displaying and as a buffer in case they get there and there‘s still snow of the ground,” he said. He said if they did not get enough food, they might not have enough energy to breed either.
The godwits food sources have been continuing to decline over recent years, leaving their future unknown, he said. “We don‘t really know whether these birds would simply just go somewhere else and try to find food somewhere else, or if they‘ll stick with what they know and try and deal with the situation because they are very habitual. “An individual godwit will go back to exactly the same site on migration year after year, so that might be all they know,” he said.
Source: Fisher Business News, June 4, 2018