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Farewell the Godwits from Southshore Spit

( Christchurch’s iconic global travellers, the Bar-tailed godwits, will have their annual send-off at 5.30pm on Wednesday afternoon.

The godwits, whose annual arrival is seen as the start of spring in Christchurch, hit the headlines in New Zealand and around the world in 2007 when one of the birds was tracked on a non-stop migration flight from Alaska to New Zealand, covering at least 11,680 km in just eight and a half days.

Christchurch has made the godwits its own by designating them the harbingers of spring, and ensuring a safe environment for them at the Avon-Heathcote Estuary and other estuarine flats in the area. Godwits can only feed when the flats are exposed at low tide and they need secure places to roost when the tide is full.

This year’s godwits farewell event will be on site at the Southshore Spit from 5.30pm on Wednesday 3 March (at the end of Rocking Horse Road – you can catch a Route 5 bus). Please no dogs. Council Rangers and members of the Ornithological Society will show visitors the godwits.

Christchurch City Council rangers have reported increasing numbers of godwits at the Avon-Heathcote Estuary, Brooklands Lagoon and the top end of Lyttelton Harbour, leading to the belief that the birds may have enjoyed good breeding success for the past few years.

Godwit numbers peaked at 2110 on the Avon-Heathcote Estuary in December 2009, taking the annual totals to over 2000 for each of the past three years after lower numbers between 1994 and 2007. Godwits numbers at the other coastal wetlands also showed increases – 459 on Upper Lyttelton Harbour and 97 at Brooklands lagoon.

Every year the Christ Church Cathedral bells peal for 30 minutes to announce the arrival of the visitors in September after the 11,000 km non-stop flight from Alaska and the Christchurch City Council rangers and the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust puts together a farewell event at the time of their departure.

The scientific community, which deems godwits as a ‘Species of High Concern’, are anticipating a decline in numbers once coastal wetland reclamation projects and habitat destruction in Asia make an impact on the bird’s survival during northward migration. The exact status of the bar-tailed godwit population worldwide is not known.

Farewell to the Godwits
Southshore Spit
Wednesday 3 March

Media Release 1 March 2010 from Christchurch City Council.



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