Asiatic (Siberian) Black-tailed  Godwit - Limosa limosa melanuroides.
   The asiatic subspecies melanuroides   breeds in scattered locations across Siberia (east of Yenisey River), Mongolia and NW China.  This population winters throughout southeast Asia as far south as southern Australia.  Individuals of this subspecies are regularly recorded in western Alaska, primarily in spring (Roberson, 1980; Paulson, 1993). I am not aware of any North American records away from Alaska - perhaps a little surprising?

In alternate-plumage, melanuroides is fairly similar to the islandica subspecies of western Europe although significantly smaller and shorter billed (discussed here). The scapulars and mantle feathers have more extensive dark centers creating a darker backed look.

Figure 1. Relatively bright individual, presumably of the subspecies melanuroides photographed at on the main scrape at Mai Po in Hong Kong, 11 April 2001. On most individuals, the bill is very straight, lacking the slight upward curve typical of most Hudsonian Godwits Limosa haemastica . Digital image captured through Kowa TSN-4. Copyright of Angus Wilson© 2001.

Figure 2. A group of roosting birds showing the variation in molt state. Notice the prominent whitish supercilium on all of these birds. The left most individual also appears in Figure 4. Pre-alternate molt begins in January but is highly variable. According to BWP, male molt more extensively than females. All or most of the head and neck feathers are replaced with 10-90% of the mantle and scapulars, 40-100% of the underparts and occasionally some of the inner (longer) tertials, inner upper wing coverts and central tail feathers (BWP III, p472). Digital image captured through Kowa TSN-4. Copyright of Angus Wilson© 2001.

Figure 3. Additional individuals catching a quick forty winks before chasing the fast retreating tide in Deep Bay. Both are relatively well advanced into alternate-plumage. Notice the rather attractive whitish feathering around the eyes ('eye lids'). Digital image captured through Kowa TSN-4. Copyright of Angus Wilson© 2001.

Figure 4. A group of roosting melanuroides Black-tailed Godwits at  Mai Po in Hong Kong. The reddish wash spreads along the flank as far as the legs. Notice the alternate and basic plumaged Asiatic Dowitchers   Limnodromus semipalmatus behind the front most godwit. The dowitchers have an all dark bill and darker red coloration in alternate plumage. Digital image captured through Kowa TSN-4.  Copyright of Angus Wilson© 2001.

Literature Cited:
Beaman, M. and Madge, S. (1998) The Handbook for Bird Identification: for Europe and the Western Palearctic. Princeton University Press.

Paulson, D. (1993) Shorebirds of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press.

Prater, A. J., Marchant, J. H. and Vuorinen, J. (1977) Guide to the identification and aging of Holarctic waders. BTO Guide 17. Tring.

Roberson, D. (1980) Rare Birds of the West Coast. Woodcock Publications, Pacific Grove, California.

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