Marbled Godwits are among the birds that autumn’s migration has brought to Zuma Beach. Having spent the summer breeding in shortgrass prairies and eating insects, earthworms and freshwater fare, they now forage for small fish and seaside invertebrates.
All About Birds indicates that the bills of Marbled Godwits change color depending on the season; just now they are half-orange with an ombre to half-black at the tip. To the untrained eye, the bills appear as long as their legs — about 3 or 3.5 inches! Just prior to piercing the sand in search of food, they set their bills ajar. Perhaps this gives them the advantage of less energy spent hoovering up groceries in wet sand.
We’ve seen them on Zuma in the company of Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers, Long-billed Curlews and Heermann’s Gulls. The Godwits’ colorful plumage, and the way they energetically stroll out with the tide, searching for a snack, before quickly scampering back at the edge of the wavelet, are welcome autumn sights. At day’s end, they sleep standing up, sometimes on one leg, with their bills tucked under a wing.