Godwits return to Watercare Coastal Walkway

Godwits at Māngere.
Bartailed Godwits have arrived in Māngere.

Calling all bird-watchers – the bartailed Godwits have returned to the Watercare Coastal Walkway in Māngere for a summer spent feasting on local delights.

Watercare environmental technician Liam Templeton, who manages the bird roosts along the coastal walkway, estimates a few thousand Godwits have already arrived.

“They’re looking pretty skinny and tired,” he says. “They fly the 12,000 kilometres from Alaska for eight or nine days straight to get back here.

“They arrive and just kind of collapse. They burn most of their body fat over the flight and then fatten up again while they’re here.”

At low-tide the wading birds can be found feeding in the mudflats. At high tide they rest on the manmade bird roosts alongside the Watercare Coastal Walkway, which runs from Ambury Farm to the Otuataua Stonefields.

We maintain the bird roosts so that the Godwits and other waders have a safe spot to rest, out of reach of predators like cats, rats and mice.

“The bar-tailed Godwit is a declining species. We get about 40 per cent of the world’s population coming here to Māngere, and we do our best to protect them,” Liam says.

Some will stay at Māngere until early April, while others use it as a stopover before continuing on to the South Island.

Other species that rely on the roosts include eastern bar-tailed godwits, pied stilts, red knots, South Island pied oystercatchers, variable oystercatchers and wrybills.

A quarter of the national wading bird population can be found in the Manukau Harbour at any given time and more than half will pass through the harbour at some stage in their life.