© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2017

Godwits land in Christchurch after exhausting flight from Alaska

Jack Loader
Bar Tailed Godwits
Godwits enjoy the water in Christchurch. WikiMedia Commons

The first of the bar-tailed Godwits are arriving at Charlesworth Coastal Reserve for summer feeding after a nine-day journey from Alaska.

Christchurch City Council park ranger Andrew Crossland said he counted 177 new arrivals at the Southshore spit on Thursday. The birds joined juveniles  which had spent the winter in Christchurch.

Two of the Godwits were wearing identifying plastic bands on their legs, giving researchers the ability to track their life history and migration patterns.

The birds left from beaches all around New Zealand in March and flew non-stop for almost 10,000km to the coasts of China and the Korean Peninsula, where they refuelled for a month before completing their journey across the North Pacific Ocean to breed in Alaska.

Keith Woodly, of the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, said the near-threatened bird's numbers are dropping by almost two-percent per year as many of their staging sites in the Yellow Sea are being lost to new development in the area.

The early arrivals will be joined by another 1000 to 1500 over the next three to four weeks as they return from their breeding grounds over 11,000km away in Alaska.

Woodly said they could predict when the Godwits would arrive due to forecasts in Alaska, but they usually arrived at Christchurch’s estuary in early to mid-September with juvenile four-month-old birds that would stay here for three to four years coming slightly later.

The new arrivals can be distinguished from those who have spent the winter in Christchurch by their red feathering and tattered plumage.