Four larger than life forged metal godwits in flight welcome visitors to Foxton at the southern entrance. Designed by sculptor Cate Madison and constructed by Old Foundry in Levin, the birds are fixed to 4 metre high poles representing the wharves which once lined the Manawatu River at Foxton during the flax industry. Each feather has been made individually before being welded together. The art installation celebrates the annual visit of thousands of migratory birds to the Manawatu Estuary, with the godwits being just one of 95 species who arrive at the “Wetland of National Importance”.
The bar-tailed godwit breeds in Siberia and Alaska and travels half way around the world to the Southern Hemisphere. They birds leave from Alaska in the northern autumn, and until recently it was assumed they followed a coastal route southwards that would allow them to feed and rest along the way. But there is now conclusive evidence that most take the direct route south across the central Pacific to New Zealand. Unlike seabirds, they cannot rest on water or feed at sea, so this 11,000-kilometre journey is the longest non-stop flight undertaken by any bird. The godwits start arriving in small groups from late September in Foxton and spend the next six months happily feeding in the mud flats. The plump, well fed birds are then ready to make the long return trip north, returning to Alaska at various stops along the way so they arrive in good condition to breed in May.