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First godwits of spring touch down in Estuary

14 September 2004

First godwits of spring touch down in Christchurch Estuary

The godwits have arrived. The first flock of bar-tailed godwits returning from their northern hemisphere breeding grounds was confirmed at high tide this evening by Christchurch City Council ranger Andrew Crossland.

So far today, about 100 godwits have arrived on the Avon-Heathcote Estuary and more will arrive over the next days, at the end of a 14,000 km migration. However, northern hemisphere ornithologists say the birds had a poor breeding season in the Arctic circle and precious few youngsters are expected this year.

Tomorrow at noon, the city will celebrate with the bells of Christchurch Cathedral ringing out for half an hour. A sky banner announcing the arrival will also be circling the central city.

Each year the waders arrive exhausted, tatty-feathered and skinny, having lost two-thirds of their body weight en route. In late March, fattened up and fully fledged in breeding plumage, these long-distance commuters will again take to the skies to fly 14,000km back again.

“The ones that’ve just come in are completely stuffed and staggering about,” Mr Crossland says. “They’re ripping into the food.”


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