Black-tailed (Limosa limosa) and Hudsonian Godwits (L. haemastica) are sometimes described as a superspecies. The Black-tailed Godwit is further split into three subspecies on the basis of morphological differences (L. l. limosa, L. l. islandica and L. l. melanuroides). We studied variation in partial mtDNA control region sequences among Black-tailed and Hudsonian Godwits which showed 5% divergence. Black-tailed and Hudsonian Godwits were thus clearly differentiated and the separate species status for the two taxa is validated. All three subspecies described for the Black-tailed Godwit had unique haplotypes but the genetic distances were small (0.3–0.6%). Despite small genetic differences we could not detect any substantial gene flow between any of the subspecies as haplotypes were private to each subspecies. Thus, genetic variation within Black-tailed Godwits showed a clear geographic structure. We found a high proportion of rare private haplotypes in three fringe populations of the nominate subspecies of the Black-tailed Godwit (L. l. limosa) where godwits breed in low numbers, but no genetic variation at all in a sample from the Netherlands where godwits are abundant. This suggests that Dutch Godwits may have been affected by a founder effect.