South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Marbled Godwit

Limosa fedoa

Length: 18 to 20 inches Wingspan: 32 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Even cinnamon color overall with dark barring above, long upcurved bill with pink base

Marbled Godwit - Limosa fedoaMarbled Godwits are among the largest of the sandpipers that visit the state, only being surpassed by the Long-billed Curlew.  Fairly gregarious, they tend to breed in loose colonies, where they prefer native prairie with adjacent wetlands.  Hunting by day or by night on mudflats or shallow waters, Marbled Godwits primarily find food items by touch, sometimes probing deeply enough to submerge their entire head below the water's surface.

Habitat: During summer months, breeding Marbled Godwits prefer native prairie with marshes or other wetlands nearby.  During migration, they can be found in and around nearly any aquatic environment. 

Diet: Primarily feeds on insects during the summer months.  Will also feed on plant roots and seeds, especially from grasses and aquatic plants.  They will also feed on crustaceans, mollusks, and marine worms on their coastal wintering grounds.

Behavior: In summer months while breeding in South Dakota, feeds heavily on insects by gleaning then from upland foliage or picking them up from the ground.  In all months, also wades in shallow water or walks on mudflats, probing with its bill in the mud or picking food items off the mud or water's surface.

Nesting: June and July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey Map

Song: Coarse nasal kwek in flight.

Migration: Summers on the northern Great Plains into southern Canada.  Winters along the Pacific coast, with somewhat lesser numbers wintering on the Gulf Coast. Some winter as far away as South America.

Similar Species: Hudsonian Godwit

Status: Populations are drastically reduced from historical levels.  Hunting took a big toll in the 19th century.  Populations rebounded somewhat when hunting pressures abated in the 20th century.  However, expanding agricultural lands have resulted in habitat loss, and numbers have begun to decline once again.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Marbled Godwit

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Marbled Godwit"

3) Marbled Godwit

Photo Information: July 2007 - Lake Thompson, Kingsbury County, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Marbled Godwit photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Marbled Godwit - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon summer breeding resident, except absent in the southeastern part of the state.  Uncommon migrant throughout the state.