With the build of a miniature stork of a pigeon's size, the legs, neck and bill all being long, and with the contrast between its short, pied tail, black at the tip and white at the base, with its drab plumage as it rises, this godwit is a conspicuous bird, and ought to be well known to sportsmen. The size mentioned above is only approximate, for this is one of the most variable birds in dimensions that exist, if indeed it does not surpass any in this respect. "Weights run from less than half a pound in the case of the smallest males to within an ounce of a pound for big females, the birds of this sex running far larger than their mates, though there are plenty of big males larger than many females.
The bill of the godwit is not sharp like a stork's, but blunt and overshot at the tip, much like a woodcock's, though not sensitive ; one would never expect a bird with this type of beak to eat grain, yet this species is quite as fond of grain as any partridge or duck, and feeds by preference on rice whenever it gets the chance, as well as on millet and grass seed. It does, however, also devour worms, grubs, shrimps and shellfish, the ordinary sort of food one would expect a long-billed wader to take, in fact. Whatever. the food is, the bird's flavour is uncommonly good, and Hume considered rice-fattened plump specimens as good as the woodcock or jack-snipe, though with a different flavour.
It is fortunate therefore that these birds, though often seen in ones or twos, are also commonly found in large flocks, and are widely though locally distributed during the cold weather, the only time when they are to be found in India. They are not to be expected in any numbers before the end of October, but few stay on till the beginning of April. During their season they may be met with here and there all over the Empire, except in the Andamans and Nicobars, but are rare in all the southern provinces, and not common east of Bengal. The commoner they are, the larger the flocks met with, and the easier are the birds to get near. They frequent both the coast and inland waters, keeping away from cover, and wading, or resting on one leg, in the shallow margins of swamps and jheels. They feed, being so fond of rice, in the rice-fields by preference, and will do so either by day or night, according to the amount of disturbance they have been meeting with.
Their resting, as opposed to feeding, places are the shallows above mentioned, but here also they pick up a good deal of food, both on land and in the water. Their flight is straight, fast and high, though, like so many excellent fliers, they rise heavily. If anywhere near, the white bar on the wing as well as the white base of the tail is conspicuous, and their long, straight bills are also characteristic. They are very silent in India, but may have a whistled alarm-call as they rise.
They breed in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere, and at the breeding-time have the plumage mainly chestnut, not drab, with some black mottling on the back, and barring below ; most birds before leaving us show a good deal of this plumage coming on.
The numerous native names of this bird attest its familiarity: The Bengali one is Jaurali, the Nepalese Malgujha, and the Telugu Tondu ulanka; while, besides, Gudera, Gairiya, Jangral, and Khag are Hindustani names.