Autumn falls as godwits take wing for warmer climes

1:59 pm on 3 March 2018

With the changing of the season, the first godwits have started leaving Christchurch for their long flight to Alaska.

Godwits travel 17,000km from the southern hemisphere to the north, and back every year.

Godwits travel 17,000km from the southern hemisphere to the north, and back every year. Photo: Wikimedia commons

The birds' departure from the Southern Hemisphere is a traditional sign of Autumn, and their 17,000km-long migration to the breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra is the longest known non-stop journey for any bird.

Christchurch council ranger Andrew Crossland said about 1500 godwits arrived in Christchurch in September last year, where they spent spring and summer resting, feeding and roosting in the estuary and wetlands.

Mr Crossland said the number of birds that had travelled to Christchurch this season was lower than in the past, a trend probably due to loss of habitat internationally.

"In the last couple of years we've had about 1500 birds as our peak count. During the preceding years the numbers have been about 1900 to 2000 birds."

Mr Crossland said some of the birds had already left and more will take off over the next few weeks depending on their hormones and weather conditions.

An annual community event to farewell the birds was held in Southshore yesterday.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs