Godwit , a bird belonging to the scolopacidoe, or snipe family, and subfamily limosinoe, which includes also the curlew. It forms the genus limosa (Briss.), characterized by a long slender bill, inclined a little upward and slightly thickened at the tip, with sides compressed and grooved on both mandibles for nearly the whole length; the upper mandible a little the longer, and the gape moderate; wings long and pointed, the first quill the longest; tail short and even; tarsi slender, longer than the middle toe; toes long, the outer united to the middle by a membrane as far as the first joint; hind toe partly resting on the ground; claws short and obtuse. The shape is more slender and the bill and legs longer than those of the snipes. They are shy birds, frequenting the seashore, living chiefly on worms which they draw from the mud; they are found in most parts of the world, though most abundantly in cold climates, and their habits and manners are like those of the curlew; the flesh is excellent eating. The marbled godwit of the United States (L. fedoa, Linn.) is, in the female, about 20 in. long to the end of the tail, the bill 4 1/2, tarsus 3, and wing 9 in.; the male is somewhat smaller.
The general color above is brownish black variegated with pale reddish, the former in bands and the latter in spots; below pale rufous, with transverse brownish black lines on the breast and sides; primaries dark brown on their outer webs, light rufous on the inner; tail light rufous, with brownish black bars; bill dark at the end, dull flesh color toward the base. It is found over the temperate regions of North America, and in South America; it is abundant in Florida during the winter, going to the north to breed in spring, and returning about the last of August within the limits of the United States. It is a shore bird, rarely seen many miles inland; when feeding it probes the mud with its long bill, plunging it in often for its whole length, in search of marine worms and small crustaceans. Its flight is quick and regular, in long and frequently changing lines. - The Hudsonian god-wit, a smaller and much rarer American species (Z. Hudsonica, Lath.), is about 15 in. long, with an extent of wings of 28 in., tail 3, bill a little over 3, and tarsus 2 1/2 in.; weight about 9 oz.
In the adults, the prevailing color above is brownish black, with spots and transverse bars of pale reddish; upper tail coverts white; beneath, yellowish red, with transverse bars of brownish black, and sometimes the feathers tipped with white on the abdomen; tail black, white at the base and tipped with the same; under wing coverts black; shafts of primaries white. The young are cinereous above, with irregular brownish black marks, dull yellowish white below, upper tail coverts white, tail as in adult. It is abundant in the northern parts of this continent, but rare in the United States, and scarcely seen south of New Jersey except in winter; it breeds in the far north; the females are somewhat larger than the males.
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa).
Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa Hudsonica).
The common godwit of Europe (L. Lapponica, Linn.), in its winter plumage, is deep brownish gray, the feathers edged with whitish; the breast brown gray, whitish underneath; rump white, radiated with brown; in summer the prevailing color is reddish.