Predicting the non-breeding distributions of the two Asian subspecies of Black-tailed Godwit using morphological information

Bing Run Zhu, Mo Verhoeven, Chris J. Hassell, Katherine K.S. Leung, Dmitry Dorofeev, Qiang Ma, Krairat Eiamampai, Jonathan T. Coleman, Uchrakhzaya Tserenbat, Gankhuyag Purev-Ochir, David Li, Zhengwang Zhang* (Corresponding author), Theunis Piersma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Until recently, Limosa limosa melanuroides was thought to be the only subspecies of Black-tailed Godwit in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway. For this reason, all previous occurrences and counts of Black-tailed Godwits in the flyway have been assigned to melanuroides. However, a larger-bodied subspecies, bohaii, has recently been discovered in the flyway. As a result, the occurrence of Black-tailed Godwits in the flyway needs to be reconsidered such that the specific distribution of each subspecies becomes known. To this end, we developed a simple discriminant function to assign individuals to subspecies based on their bill and wing length. Cross-validation with individuals known to be bohaii or melanuroides, based on molecular analysis, showed the developed function to be 97.7% accurate. When applied to measurements of godwits captured at 22 sites across 9 countries in East–Southeast Asia and Australia, we found that bohaii and melanuroides occurred at most sites and overlapped in their distribution from Kamchatka to Australia. We examined photos from all along the flyway to verify this surprising result, confirming that both subspecies co-occur in most locations. Based on these results, we hypothesise that bohaii and melanuroides from the west of their breeding ranges mostly migrate over Chinese mainland. Birds of both subspecies from the east of their ranges are expected to migrate along the Pacific Ocean. We encourage ringing groups in East–Southeast Asia and Australia to use this simple method to keep adding knowledge about Black-tailed Godwits in the East Asian–Australasian Flyway.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100069
Pages (from-to)100069
JournalAvian Research
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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