The Bar-tailed Godwit

The bar-tailed godwitThe godwit is the emblem of the New Zealand Studies Network. One of the classic works of New Zealand fiction, Robin Hyde’s The Godwits Fly (1938) used the annual migration of godwits from New Zealand to Siberia as a figure for the way that New Zealanders of Hyde’s generation were impelled towards Britain.

Godwits, largish wading birds, are migratory birds par excellence. Several years ago a bar-tailed godwit was tracked from its summertime home in New Zealand to its breeding ground in Alaska, flying over 6,000 miles non-stop to China and a further 3,000 miles to Alaska. Its return flight of 7, 150 miles in just over eight days is the longest recorded non-stop migratory flight.

Since Robin Hyde’s day New Zealanders have fanned out across the world. Britain is no longer the only resting place of travelling New Zealanders though it remains an important home for ex-patriots and centre for visitors from New Zealand. This is why the godwit, a bird that lives across the world, is the logo of an association that while based in London studies all things New Zealand, not least its relation to the world at large.