The Epic Migration of Hudsonian Godwits

Hudsonian Godwit; Photo Credit: Francesco Veronesi
Words can’t adequately describe the life and experience of Hudsonian Godwits. Until recently, the lives of this large, graceful shorebird were a mystery. But what scientists are now discovering about these birds and their future is both awe-inspiring and alarming.


Hudsonian Godwits are one of 70 species of birds that twice-yearly fly a dangerous, harrowing, and exhausting migration route that takes them from the far south of the Americas to above the Arctic circle, and back again. But these birds are even more unusual than most long-distance migrators in that they have a habit of instead of making local stops for refueling and rest, flying nonstop over thousands of miles for days and nights on end in a body-crushing migration feat that challenges our beliefs about what is physically possible. In winter, they congregate en masse in a handful of mudflats in South America until they make a rapid 9 -10,000 mile journey to their nesting grounds.


Until recently scientists had no idea where they spent their time after nesting nor what routes they were taking. But now, with lighter and more advanced tracking equipment, we are beginning to get an idea of the extreme lives these birds live, how they are affected by climate change, and how humans are changing the habitats they depend upon to recover from their precarious long haul flights. To better understand the crazy lives of Hudsonian Godwits, don’t miss this excellent article from Smithsonian Magazine.