They can be distinguished from the curlews by their straight or slightly upturned bills, and from the dowitchers by their longer legs. The winter plumages are fairly drab, but three species have reddish underparts when breeding. The females are appreciably larger than the males.
Although not common tablefare today, they were once a popular British dish. Sir Thomas Browne writing in the seventeenth century noted that godwits "were accounted the daintiest dish in England."
Godwits are shore birds (family Scolopacidae), large sandpipers with long legs and bills. Their long, subtly upcurved bills allow them to probe deeply in the sand for aquatic worms and mollusks. Godwits frequent tidal shorelines, breeding in northern climates in summer and migrating south in winter. In their winter range, they flock together where food is plentiful. The combination of long legs and long almost straight bill distinguishes the godwits from both the curlews and the dowitchers
In addition, there are one or 2 species of fossil prehistoric godwits. Limosa vanrossemi is known from the Monterey Formation (Late Miocene, approx. 6 mya) of Lompoc, USA. Limosa gypsorum of the Late Eocene (Montmartre Formation, some 35 mya) of France may have actually been a curlew or some bird ancestral to both curlews and godwits (and possibly other Scolopacidae), or even a rail, being placed in the monotypic genus Montirallus by some (Olson, 1985). Certainly, curlews and godwits are rather ancient and in some respects primitive lineages of scolopacids (Thomas et al., 2004), further complicating the assignment of such possibly basal forms.
A female bar-tailed godwit holds the record for the longest non-stop flight for a land bird.
Little Godwit sets world flight record; With a wingspan of just 75cm, this feisty bird flew for 9 days non-stop from New Zealand to the Yellow Sea.(News)
Apr 18, 2007; BYLINE: Leon Marshall The bar-tailed Godwit is a relatively sturdy little bird with a wingspan of hardly more than 75cm....
Against the trend: increasing numbers of breeding Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus and Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa limosa on a German Wadden Sea island
Mar 01, 2008; Capsule The increase in population sizes over the last 30 years cannot be explained by reproductive success. Aims To establish...
Stopover ecology of Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa limosa in Portuguese rice fields: a guide on where to feed in winter
Jul 01, 2008; Capsule Conservation management of rice fields may be necessary to guarantee the availability of high quality stopover habitats....