In the vast expanse of nature, there are moments that captivate us, offering glimpses into the intricate tapestry of life on our planet. Such was the case for one fortunate bird photographer who stumbled upon a remarkable sight on an undisclosed beach in Northern New South Wales, Australia. Here, amidst the gentle lapping of waves and the soft embrace of sand, lay a congregation of Eastern Curlews and Bar-Tailed Godwits, resting side by side. This unexpected encounter provided a window into the awe-inspiring phenomenon of bird migration, as well as an opportunity to delve into the unique characteristics of these two remarkable species.

The Eastern Curlew: A Journey Across Continents

The Eastern Curlew (Numenius madagascariensis) is a majestic shorebird with a distinctive downward-curved bill, perfectly adapted for probing into the sandy shores in search of prey. Each year, these birds embark on an extraordinary journey spanning thousands of kilometres, traveling from their breeding grounds in Siberia and northern China to their non-breeding grounds in Australia and Southeast Asia. The migration of the Eastern Curlew is one of the longest recorded migrations of any shorebird, with some individuals traveling over 10,000 kilometres each way.

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Despite their remarkable endurance, Eastern Curlews face numerous threats throughout their migratory route, including habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. As a result, they are classified as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Conservation efforts are underway to protect key stopover sites and breeding grounds, as well as to raise awareness about the importance of preserving these vital habitats for migratory birds.

The Bar-Tailed Godwit: A Feat of Endurance

Joining the Eastern Curlews on the sandy shores of Northern NSW are the Bar-Tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica), another species renowned for their incredible migratory feats. Bar-Tailed Godwits breed in the Arctic tundra of Alaska, Siberia, and northern Europe, undertaking an arduous journey across the Pacific Ocean to their non-breeding grounds in Australia and New Zealand.

In 2007, a notable event occurred, potentially marking the first instance of its kind, when a Bar-tailed Godwit gained widespread attention. This particular bird, identified as E7, achieved an unprecedented feat by undertaking a non-stop flight from Alaska to New Zealand, covering a distance exceeding 11,500 kilometres within a span of 11 days. This remarkable accomplishment set a new world record, with details provided through the utilization of a miniature satellite transmitter affixed to the bird’s dorsal area.

Eastern Curlew Bar-tailed Godwit Copyright

While E7’s remarkable journey garnered global acclaim and remained unparalleled for a considerable period, subsequent Bar-tailed Godwits equipped with similar transmitters have since surpassed this record on multiple occasions.

Fast forward to 2022, yet another Bar-tailed Godwit, this time a juvenile, shattered the existing record by flying an even more astounding distance of 13,560 kilometres from Alaska to Ansons Bay, situated on the north-eastern coast of Tasmania. This surpasses E7’s epic voyage by a significant margin of approximately 2000 kilometres. To provide perspective, this additional distance equates to the approximate distance between Melbourne and Townsville. (Source:

Despite their remarkable abilities, Bar-Tailed Godwits also face a myriad of challenges, including habitat loss, predation, and climate change. Conservation efforts focus on protecting critical stopover sites along their migration route, as well as advocating for international cooperation to address the threats facing these remarkable birds.

A Spectacle of Migration

As our bird photographer observed, the sight of Eastern Curlews and Bar-Tailed Godwits resting together on the sandy shores of Northern NSW is a testament to the interconnectedness of the natural world. These birds, hailing from distant corners of the planet, converge on this remote beach, drawn by instinct and necessity to rest and refuel before continuing their journey.

This serendipitous encounter serves as a reminder of the importance of preserving critical habitats and protecting migratory routes for the survival of these remarkable species. By understanding and appreciating the challenges faced by Eastern Curlews and Bar-Tailed Godwits, we can work together to ensure a brighter future for these iconic migratory birds and the ecosystems they depend on.

Eastern Curlew Bar-tailed Godwit Copyright

The migration of Eastern Curlews and Bar-Tailed Godwits is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of nature. As they traverse vast distances and overcome formidable obstacles, these birds inspire us with their determination and grace. By safeguarding their habitats and addressing the threats they face, we can ensure that future generations will continue to marvel at the wonder of bird migration for years to come.

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