First godwits land at estuary

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Local ornithologists spotted the first group of godwits on Monday. So far, more than 200 have settled on the northern part of the AvonHeathcote Estuary and parts of the Bexley wetland with more expected over the coming weeks.

To get to New Zealand the birds travel more than 11,000 kilometres over eight days each September, to escape the Alaskan winter. Nicknamed the marathon bird, their annual journey is the largest non-stop flight known for any bird.

The godwits take advantage of the New Zealand summer to rest and double their weight under the watchful eye of bird-lovers and Christchurch City Council park rangers.

Council parks unit manager Andrew Rutledge said the return of the godwits was a ‘‘welcome sign’’ that spring had arrived in the garden city.

‘‘Here in Christchurch we are lucky to be able to watch the birds interact in our local environment after their long journey.’’

Rutledge said residents could see the birds around the Southshore Spit or the estuary, but asked dog owners to respect their presence.