Welney black-tailed godwit takes second ‘partner’

The male black-tailed godwit at the Welney Wetland Centre.

The male black-tailed godwit at the Welney Wetland Centre.

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A usually faithful bird has got wildlife experts in a flap after attracting a second mate.

Black-tailed godwits, a rare wading bird, usually stick with the same mate for life, but one particularly amorous male has surprised researchers after managing to attract two female partners.

It is the first time the behaviour has been witnessed at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust’s Welney Wetland Centre near Downham Market.

Experts claim the 12-year-old male could be trying the tactic this summer as the numbers of black-tailed godwits breeding in the UK are at precarious levels.

And the approach seems to be working. Between the three of them, they have successfully produced chicks – although exactly how many, and by whom, is not clear.

Louise Clewley, warden at WWT Welney, said: “It’s been a really exciting time for me as this is the first time I have seen godwit chicks and I am now anxiously awaiting the day that they fledge. If we get to that stage with this generation we will have added to the UK population by 18pc, which is incredibly important for the future of this species.”

Mark Whiffin, from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, added: “

“The male godwit with two females is unique in our experience and fascinating behaviour to witness. We wait to see if they are both with him next year.”