Bar-tailed Godwits are quite large waders, with females being bigger than males. The Bar-tailed Godwit is mainly mottled brown above and lighter and more uniform buff below. It has dull white underwings, and a long, slightly upturned bill.
As the name suggests, the white tail is barred with brown. This is the non-breeding plumage of the Bar-tailed Godwit and is the main phase seen in Australia. The breeding plumage is darker and more rufous, with females duller than males. Young birds resemble non-breeding birds.
Bar-tailed Godwits arrive in Australia each year in August from breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. Birds are more numerous in northern Australia.
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