J9 back in Awarua Bay after epic flight

20:43, Feb 25 2013
J9 the godwit
The male bar-tailed godwit known as J9.

A bar-tailed male godwit known to researchers as J9 has been spotted back at Awarua Bay after travelling 12,500 kilometres from Alaska.

J9, who had a flag attached to its leg at its nest site in Alaska in 2009, was one of about 4000 birds who completed the flight from Alaska to Southland every year.

The birds stayed for the summer months before heading back to Alaska for the breeding season.

Invercargill City Council customer services team leader Phil Rhodes said that between 2004 and 2009 godwits were caught and colour-banded at Awarua Bay by a project team from the Ornithological Society of New Zealand.

Information gathered showed they were site-specific, which meant the birds caught and banded at Awarua Bay returned each spring to the same location.

Mr Rhodes said between 85,000 and 110,000 godwits arrived in New Zealand each year. About 70 per cent stayed in the North Island and 30 per cent headed south.

The birds would start arriving in New Zealand in September and normally leave again in March. Some Southland colour-banded birds had been seen in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and Australia.

A godwit caught the country's interest a few years ago after it was found to have travelled non- stop from Alaska to New Zealand.

"The non-stop journey of the godwits over the Pacific is one of the most impressive migrations in the animal kingdom," Mr Rhodes said.


The Southland Times