Marbled godwit (Limosa fedoa)

Category: Birds
Ecosystems: Marine shorelines
Vulnerability to climate change (More details)


If you see this species, please share your observation using the WDFW wildlife reporting form. Providing detailed information such as a photo and exact coordinates will improve the confidence and value of this observation to WDFW species conservation and management.

The Washington population of marbled godwits is very small, and most of the state’s population occurs in very localized areas of Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. Those attributes make the marbled godwit vulnerable to oil spills or other actions that would degrade or impact its habitat. Human disturbance currently does not appear to be a concern.

Description and Range

Physical description

The marbled godwit is one of the largest shorebirds in the world, measuring about 18 inches in length. It has a long, generally upcurved yellow bill that is darker on the lower half to the tip. The bird is overall light brown with dark mottling above and barring below -- breeding plumage is more mottled and the barring is rust-colored compared to winter or juvenile plumage. 

Ecology and life history

In Washington, the marbled godwit is typically associated with tidal mudflats and sandflats, but small numbers at times also use coastal beaches. In the Columbia Basin, where it is very uncommon during migration, short grass areas and shorelines are used.

In coastal areas, they feed on a variety of intertidal invertebrates that they extract from mudflats.

They nest in native prairie grasslands, wet meadows and similar cover types.

Geographic range

Three separate breeding regions are known in North America and both fedoa and beringiae subspecies likely occur in Washington. The beringiae subspecies breeds in a small area of the Alaska Peninsula.

The estimated global population is 140,000 to 200,000 individuals, and this includes the beringiae population of about 2,000, which is thought to overwinter between Washington and California. The fedoa population from the northern Great Plains overwinters between central California and coastal Mexico.

In Washington, marbled godwits occur primarily in northern Willapa Bay (they roost at the Tokeland Marina) and southern Grays Harbor. Considered a very rare visitor several decades ago, marbled godwit abundance in Washington has increased steadily and some recent counts have exceeded 1500 birds. The overwintering population in Washington is substantially farther north than the more contiguous distribution of the population that extends from Humboldt Bay, California, south into Mexico.

For a map of worldwide distribution and other species' information, see NatureServe Explorer and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List.

Climate vulnerability

Sensitivity to climate change


Marbled godwits may experience some phenological sensitivity to increases in air temperature, as warmer temperatures could alter their migration timing and length of overwintering season in Washington. Temperature-induced alterations in migration timing may also affect breeding season timing and productivity. Overall sensitivity will be higher due to their dependence on intertidal sand and mudflats as foraging sites, which may decrease in extent due to sea level rise and coastal inundation. Due to their long legs, marbled godwits may be able to withstand coastal sea level changes and forage in deeper waters.

Confidence: Moderate

Exposure to climate change


  • Increased temperatures
  • Sea level rise
Confidence: Moderate


This species is identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) under the State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP). SGCN-classified species include both those with and without legal protection status under the Federal or State Endangered Species programs, as well as game species with low populations. The WDFW SWAP is part of a nationwide effort by all 50 states and five U.S. territories to develop conservation action plans for fish, wildlife and their natural habitats—identifying opportunities for species' recovery before they are imperiled and more limited.
This species is identified as a Priority Species under WDFW's Priority Habitat and Species Program. Priority species require protective measures for their survival due to their population status, sensitivity to habitat alteration, and/or recreational, commercial, or tribal importance. The PHS program is the agency's main means of sharing fish and wildlife information with local governments, landowners, and others who use it to protect priority habitats for land use planning.

Conservation Threats and Actions Needed

Fish and wildlife habitat loss or degradation

  • Threat: Oil spill that impacts foraging area and fouls foraging birds.
  • Action Needed: Maintain spill response effectiveness.

Resource information collections needs

  • Threat: Small population size.
  • Action Needed: Clarify subspecies occurrence in Washington.

See the Climate vulnerability section for more information about the threats posed by climate change to the marbled godwit.



Buchanan, J. B. 2005. Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa). Page 149 in T. R.Wahl, B. Tweit, and S.G. Mlodinow (Eds.), Birds of Washington: status and distribution. Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA. 436 pp.

Gratto-Trevor, C. L. 2000. Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa). The Birds of North America 492: 1-24.

Other resources