The Hudsonian Godwit.

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Birds of America

By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.


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[Hudsonian Godwit.]

[Limosa haemastica.]


This species, which is of rare occurrence in any part of the United States, is scarcely ever found farther south along the coast than the State of Maryland. I had never seen it in the flesh, until I went to Boston in 1832, when I found specimens of it in the market late in September. An old gunner in my employ brought me eight or ten in the course of a month, but they were all young birds. From one of them my son drew the figure in the plate. While I was at Pictou Professor MACCULLOCH presented me with a pair of adult birds in beautiful plumage. When we were on our way towards Labrador, the fishermen and inhabitants of the Magdeleine Islands, who gave the name of Curlews to the Godwits, assured me that this species breeds there in some marshes at the extremity of the principle island, and that they were in the habit of killing them as soon as they were able to fly, when they were considered excellent food. We saw none, however, on our voyage farther north, and in Labrador and Newfoundland nobody seemed to know them.

My young friend THOMAS MACCULLOCH, who gave me, in London, several well-mounted specimens of this species, in the spring of 1835, confirmed the assertions of the people of the Magdeleine Islands, and informed me that these birds breed at times on Prince Edward's Island, from which they spread along the coast of Nova Scotia, where they remain until very severe weather comes on, when they suddenly disappear.

I have tried to give a good figure of the adult, and that made by my son will, I hope, be considered faithful by those who are acquainted with the bird in its autumnal plumage. The adult has been represented as lying down, in order to shew the difference between this species and the Limosa melanura of Europe, to which it is allied, but from which it may readily be distinguished at all periods by the black colour of the inner wing-coverts. In the European bird these feathers are white, and the species does not occur in the United States, perhaps not in any part of North America. The females are rather larger than the males, but nothing is known respecting the nests or eggs.

SCOLOPAX HUDSONICA, Lath. Ind. Orn., vol. ii. p. 720.
LIMOSA HUDSONICA, Hudsonian Godwit, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer.,vol. ii. p. 396.
HUDSONIAN GODWIT, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 175.

HUDSONIAN GODWIT, Limosa hudsonica, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii. p. 426;vol. v. p. 592.

Male, 15 3/4, 28. Female, 16 3/4, 29.

Rather rare along the Atlantic Districts in spring and autumn. Breeds in the barren grounds of the Arctic seas in great numbers. Migratory.

Adult Male.

Bill double the length of the head, sub-cylindrical, compressed at the base, tapering to an obtuse point, which is a little enlarged, slightly recurved. Upper mandible with the dorsal line slightly curved upwards in its whole extent, the ridge convex, the sides with a narrow groove extending almost to the point, the edges rather obtuse, the tip slightly enlarged. Nostrils basal, lateral, near the edges, small, linear, pervious. Lower mandible with the angle very long and extremely narrow, the dorsal line slightly recurved, the sides with a narrow groove extending almost to the end, the edges rather blunt, the tip obtuse.

Head small, oblong, compressed. Neck rather long and slender. Body slender. Feet long and slender; tibia bare for about a third, anteriorly scutellate; tarsus long, slender, covered anteriorly and posteriorly with numerous scutella, laterally for a very small space reticulate; toes small, slender, scutellate above, flat beneath, broadly marginate, the anterior connected at the base by webs, of which the outer is much larger; first toe very small, second slightly shorter than fourth, third little longer. Claws small, compressed, slightly arched, obtuse, that of middle toe with the inner edge curved outwards and thin.

Plumage soft on the head, neck and lower parts blended, on the back imbricated; all the feathers oblong and rounded. Wings long, very acute, narrow; primaries tapering, the first longest, the second little shorter, the rest rapidly graduated; secondaries incurved, obliquely rounded, with a recurved tip, the inner elongated and tapering. Tail short, of twelve rounded feathers, slightly forked, but with the two middle feathers a little longer than those next them.

Bill greyish-yellow, dark brown along the ridge of the upper mandible, and blackish towards the tips of both. Iris brown. Feet light greyish-blue. The head and neck brownish-grey, with darker lines; a band from the bill over the eye, and the throat greyish-white; the back deep grey; the scapulars brownish-black, with small white markings on the edges of the feathers; the smaller wing-coverts, alula, primary quills and their coverts brownish-black; the secondaries lighter, and with their inner webs pale grey; tips of the primary coverts and bases of the quills, white, as is a broad band over the rump. Tail feathers and upper tail-coverts brownish-black, their bases white, and their tips narrowly edged with brownish-white. The lower parts are bright yellowish-red, the sides mottled with dark brown; the abdomen and lower tail-coverts paler and variegated with dusky; the lower wing-coverts blackish-brown, edged with whitish.

Length to end of tail 15 3/4 inches, to end of wings 16 3/8, to end of claws 19 3/4; wing from flexure 8 1/2; tail 3 1/4; extent of wings 28; bill along the back 3 7/12; along the edge of lower mandible 3 6/12; bare part of tibia 1 1/4; tarsus 2 1/2; middle toe 1 4/12, its claw (2 1/2)/12. Weight 9 oz.

Young Female in winter.

The bill, iris and feet, as in the adult male. Upper part of the head dusky, with darker lines; sides of the head, and the neck, greyish-yellow; a whitish band over the eye. The lower parts are pale brownish-grey, the upper brownish-grey; the fore part of the back and scapulars brownish-black, the feathers edged with light brownish-red; the wing-coverts brownish-grey; the quills as in the adult, as is the tail, anterior to which is also a broad white band.

In September 1835, I shot, near Edinburgh, a young individual of Limosa rufa, which I had previously observed for some time. It thrust its bill into the wet sand in the same manner as the Woodcock; and I was much surprised, on taking it up, to see that its bill was perfectly straight in its whole length. When I opened it, however, in order to place a little cotton in its throat, a sudden spring-like movement of the mandibles made them curve upwards. Never having kept birds of this genus alive, I am unable to say whether the bill be naturally straight or not.

The following are the dimensions of a very fine specimen selected from among five presented by Dr. T. M. BREWER of Boston. Length to end of tail 16 3/4 inches, to end of wings 17 3/4, to end of claws 18 1/2; extent of wings 2 feet 5 inches; bill along the ridge 3 1/2, along the edge of lower mandible also 3 1/2; wing from flexure 6 2/12; tail 3 2/12; bare part of tibia 1/2; tarsus 2 1/2; hind toe (4 1/2)/12, its claw (1 1/2)/12; second toe 1, its claw (2 1/2)/12; third toe 1 (3 1/2)/12, its claw 3,; fourth toe 1 (1 1/2)/12, its claw (1 1/2)/12.

The interior of the mouth as in the other species, its width 4 3/4 twelfths, the fore part of the palate with three series of large papillae. Tongue 1 10/12, slender, tapering to a point, trigonal. Channelled above, horny beneath. OEsophagus 6 3/4 inches long, 4 twelfths wide, proventriculus 5 twelfths. Stomach a muscular gizzard of an oblong form, 1 inch 3 twelfths long, 1 inch in breadth; its lateral muscles strong and well marked; the epithelium dense, thick, with numerous longitudinal rugae, and of a brownish-red colour. Contents of the stomach, particles of quartz. Proventricular belt 9 twelfths in breadth. Intestine 1 foot 8 inches long, 2 3/4 twelfths in width; rectum 3 twelfths wide, dilated into an ovate cloaca, 8 twelfths in width; coeca 4 twelfths long, 1 1/4 twelfths in width, 2 3/4 inches distant from the extremity.

Trachea 5 inches long, much flattened, from 3 twelfths to 2 twelfths in breadth; its rings feeble, 120, and a single dimidiate ring. Bronchial half rings 15. Muscles as in the other species.

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