Christchurch ornithologists and Council Park Rangers watch from August onwards for their return. The birds arrive each September, having made the longest nonstop flight known for any bird – more than 11,000 kilometres over eight days – from Alaska to New Zealand leaving the northern winter. This is why the Māori name is Kūaka or marathon bird.
The Godwits have arrived slightly later this year possibly due to wind patterns In Alaska not being favourable earlier in the month but now the wind has turned more arrivals are expected this weekend.
The birds enjoy the New Zealand summer, rest up and double their weight under the watchful eye of bird-lovers. Last year they returned to a changed estuary environment with large amounts of liquefaction present, However hundreds of Godwits still used the estuary for feeding and roosting, with around 300 mostly juveniles staying over winter.
Alan Beuzenburg, Unit Manager Transport and Greenspace says “Seeing the Godwits arrive again is always a relief and a celebration. The marathon birds have made it: Life goes on and Spring is here. It’s a privilege that they come here to Christchurch to live over the spring and summer months.”
Residents will be able to see them on the South Shore Spit or the estuary area and enjoy their presence in out city but dog owners need to be extra vigilant around them.
“It’s important dogs are not left to run loose and scare the Godwits – they need to be able to feed in peace,” Mr Beuzenburg says.
Excitable dogs can easily distress these birds, who need to be well-rested and in peak condition in order to survive their return flight.