Objectives & progress


  • Over 80% of UK black-tailed godwits Limosa limosa limosa breed at just two locations: the Ouse Washes and the Nene Washes
  • In 2017, the population at the Ouse Washes was critically small with only three pairs remaining and the population at the Nene Washes was in decline.
  • Project Godwit was initiated to tackle the causes of decline, boost the Ouse Washes population, raise awareness of the importance of the UK’s wetlands for ground nesting birds, and share information about methods to conserve threatened waders.
Project at-a-glance poster

Project objectives

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa) mother with chicks at nest, Waterland, Netherlands

1. To increase the productivity of black-tailed godwits at the Nene and Ouse Washes so that the population can begin to recover.

Habitat management at the Nene Washes. Photo by Andy Hay/RSPB.

2. To maintain and enhance black-tailed godwit wet grassland habitat at the Nene and Ouse washes, providing the right conditions for the species to thrive.


3. To improve our understanding of the local and migratory movements of black-tailed godwits breeding in the project area, using colour ringing and tracking.


4. To supplement the Ouse Washes black-tailed godwit population through the trialling of a rear-and-release programme,  helping to re-establish the birds at sites adjacent to the Ouse Washes.

Class 2 at Denver VC Primary School

5. To increase support among local communities for the long-term conservation of black-tailed godwits.


6. To develop a UK-wide recovery plan for black-tailed godwits, working with international flyway initiatives.

What we've done

Key project stats

of ditches improved
of fencing installed
birds released
local people engaged
population increase

Results so far

The black-tailed godwit population at the Ouse and Nene Washes has increased from 38 pairs in 2017 to 53 pairs in 2021, an increase of 39%. Headstarting is proving to be a useful tool to boost productivity, but wild productivity has remained low and predation high.

Black-tailed godwits continue to be an urgent conservation issue in the UK. Measures that reduce predation on eggs and chicks in the long-term are required, including the provision of larger areas of suitable wet grassland, safe from spring & summer floods.


For a more detailed graph of black-tailed godwit population size in eastern England, including data gathered before Project Godwit began in 2017, click here.

Time remaining


Partners and funders


Project Godwit is a partnership between RSPB and WWT with major funding from the EU LIFE Nature Programme, the HSBC 150th Anniversary Fund, Natural England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Back from the Brink programme, Leica and the Montague-Panton Animal Welfare Trust.