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Christchurch Farewells the godwits

CHRISTCHURCH CITY COUNCIL MEDIA RELEASE
5 February 2009
To: The Chief Reporter
From: CCC Communication Team


Christchurch Farewells the godwits

Christchurch is getting ready to farewell the flock of the bar-tailed godwits on their perilous journey home to Alaska.

Christchurch has adopted the visitors, who fly over 11,000 km non-stop in September to winter at the Avon-Heathcote Estuary (as well as other places in New Zealand) – as harbingers of spring. The godwits arrival for Christchurch in September , last year marked the end of a long cold winter and the start of spring The godwits are close to the hearts of Christchurch residents: the ChristChurch Cathedral bells peal out a welcome soon after the first of the little long-distance champions touchdown at the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.

The farewell ceremony will be at the South Shore Spit Reserve (end of Rocking Horse road) on Wednesday 11th Feb at 6 pm.

The godwits spend the summer resting and gaining weight and generally leave in late February or early March for the 17,000 km flight back to their northern hemisphere breeding grounds following a coastal migration route through Asia. On leaving NZ, most Godwits fly directly to the Yellow Sea region of China and Korea where they refuel before continuing on to the breeding grounds in Alaska.

“If people want the Bar-tailed Godwit to survive as a species, and to have them coming back to Christchurch and elsewhere every year, then communities need to be proactive in reducing levels of disturbance to these birds,” he says. Much of the disturbance ensues from people with a careless attitude, particularly owners of unleashed dogs.

Christchurch City Council ranger Andrew Crossland says that the godwit numbers in New Zealand have been variable over the past two decades and believes this may be partially because of the loss of feeding grounds in Asia .

“Loss of feeding habitat means that building up fat reserves for the final leg of the migration is becoming increasingly more difficult, and numbers of birds are possibly not making it to the breeding grounds in Alaska,” says Mr Crossland.

“This makes our treatment of godwits in New Zealand even more important, as it is crucial that they need to set out on their return migration in absolutely peak condition,” he says “We need to ensure that Godwits always have safe and secure feeding and roosting habitat on our New Zealand estuaries.”

ENDS

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