The bar-tailed godwit is a sort of poor relation of the better known black-tailed species, smaller and less strikingly coloured, the" tail lacking the bold contrast of solid black and white in two sections, but simply marked with many transverse bands of brown and white, while the body plumage is longitudinally marked with dark stripes.
Although the dimensions of this bird average smaller than those of the last, there is some overlapping, the smallest being barely lighter than small examples of the black-tailed, though the largest do not reach twelve ounces ; these, as in the common species, are hens, this sex averaging bigger in the bar-tailed godwit also.
The bar-tailed godwit, although more familiar at home nowadays than the black-tailed, is little known in India ; it is, however, common along the south coast, where specimens have been got in Kurrachee harbour, one as early as September 29. The bird is only a winter visitant, and the latest was got on March 23. At Kurrachee, according to Hume, these godwits haunt the extensive mud-banks, mixed up with other waders, but flying off in flocks when alarmed. These flocks did not exceed twenty birds, and however many were together when feeding, they did not go off in one big flock, but split up into smaller parties and each took its own line, flying less swiftly than the black-tailed species, though rising quicker. They were so wary that he only got six specimens, though as many as a hundred birds might be seen on one bank at a time, and they were even more silent than the other kind, very occasionally uttering their low pipe; their food had consisted of small sea animals, and they themselves had the peculiar flavour which Hume calls " froggy," reminding him of eels from muddy water; this is curious, as even when near the sea the black-tailed godwit retains its excellent flavour. Like that bird, the bar-tailed godwit puts on a chestnut plumage in the breeding-season, though retaining its characteristic differences, and it also breeds all along the Northern Hemisphere. In winter a race of it even reaches New Zealand and is a favourite object of sport with gunners under its Maori name of Kuaka, or the very misleading English one of "curlew."