What’s going on?

All migrating birds arrived in the breeding area about four weeks ago, where they moved around very little. However, last week we have seen some movements again: Hilf went up north to Bely Island, and Khaluf started to migrate south again today. What is going on?

From literature we know that bar-tailed godwits initiate their nest soon after arrival. Usually four eggs are laid in a depression in the ground, lined with lichen, moss and grass. In bar-tailed godwits, both sexes share responsibility for incubating. The chicks hatch in 20-22 days and leave the nest shortly after hatching to search for food. Both parents make sure the young are guided to the best feeding places and alarm when danger (predators) is near. Probably the fathers take a bit more responsibility in this. The young fledge when they are about 30 days old.

Thus, it will take about 7-8 weeks from egg laying to fledging. All birds that we tagged are females, so they might leave the broods a bit earlier. But still, to leave the breeding area after 4 weeks, as we have seen in 2 birds, means that there is something wrong. Almost certainly they gave up their breeding attempt. We could think of several reasons why these birds gave up, but most likely is that their nest got predated. Predation by foxes or avian predators can be severe in the arctic. All speculation of course. Hopefully the other birds will remain a bit longer at their breeding grounds. Go godwits!

IMG_6737Picture showing the typical tundra landscape where the Bar-tailed godwits are breeding. This is the Taimyr Peninsula in 2008