A young bird may have set a distance record by flying nonstop from Alaska to Tasmania


A bird flew nonstop, apparently, from Alaska to the Australian state of Tasmania.

And now this young bar-tailed godwit – a member of the sandpiper family – appears to have set a nonstop distance record for migrating birds.

It traveled at least 13,560 kilometers – or 8,435 miles – during that flight, a bird expert said on Friday, as reported by The Associated Press.

The bird was tagged as a hatchling in Alaska during the Northern Hemisphere summer, the AP also noted.

It had a GPS tracking chip and a small solar panel that allowed an international research team to track its first annual migration across the Pacific Ocean, BirdLife Tasmania manager Eric Woehler told the AP.

Because the bird was so young, its gender was not known.

Still, at about five months old, he departed southwest Alaska in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta on October 13.

Eleven days later, he landed at Ansons Bay on the northeastern tip of the island of Tasmania on October 24.

This is according to data from the German Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. The research has not yet been published or peer-reviewed, the AP said.

“Big, loud and cinnamon-colored”

Widespread in summer in northern Europe and Asia, the godwit crosses the Bering Strait to nest in western Alaska, according to Audubon.

“Big, loud and cinnamon-colored, it is conspicuous on its tundra nesting grounds,” the same source also said.

The young band-tailed godwit had a GPS chip that tracked its flight, allowing an international research team to track its migration across the Pacific Ocean.
PA

“Alaskan Band-tailed Godwits winter in the Old World. A few may appear on either coast of North America in migration – [and] these wandering animals, with dull winter plumage, often associate with flocks of other godwits, where they easily go unnoticed.

Godwits feed on insects, crustaceans and molluscs, says Audubon.

“In the summer in Alaska, [the bird] feeds mainly on aquatic insects, sometimes also on seeds and berries. On mudflats and shores in other seasons, [it] feeds on crustaceans, molluscs, insects [and] towards annelids.

bird tracking

The bird started on a southwesterly course towards Japan – then turned southeast over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, according to a map released by New Zealand’s Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Center, a reported the AP.

The bird was heading southwest again when it flew over or near Kiribati and New Caledonia, then passed the Australian mainland before heading directly west for Tasmania, the state Australia’s southernmost.

“Whether this bird got lost or if it’s part of a normal migration pattern for the species, we still don’t know.”

Eric Woehler, Head of BirdLife Tasmania

The satellite track showed the bird traveled 13,560 kilometers (8,435 miles) without stopping.

“Was it an accident, if this bird got lost or if it’s part of a normal migration pattern for the species, we still don’t know,” said Woehler, who is part of the research project.

The longest migration recorded by a bird without stopping to feed or rest is 12,200 kilometers – 7,580 miles – according to Guinness World Records.

This record was set by a satellite-tagged male band-tailed godwit flying from Alaska to New Zealand.

The longest migration recorded by a bird without stopping to feed or rest is 12,200 kilometers – 7,580 miles – according to Guinness World Records.

This record was set by a satellite-tagged male band-tailed godwit flying from Alaska to New Zealand.

This flight was recorded in 2020 as part of the same decade-old research project – which also involves China’s Fudan University, New Zealand’s Massey University and the Global Flyway Network, the AP noted.

The same bird broke its own record with a flight of 13,000 kilometers – 8,100 miles – on its next migration last year, researchers say.

However, Guinness has yet to acknowledge this feat.

Researchers hope to see the bird once the wet weather clears in the remote corner of Tasmania – where it will fatten up, having lost half its body weight during its long journey.

Eric Woehler, Head of BirdLife Tasmania

Woehler said researchers don’t know if the last bird, known by its satellite tag 234684, was flying alone or in a group.

He also told the AP he hopes to see the bird once the wet weather clears in the remote corner of Tasmania – where it will fatten up, having lost half its body weight during its long trip.

The band-tailed godwit first breeds when it is two years old, according to Audubon.

image of a Band-tailed Godwit standing on the beach at Marion Bay in Australia.
According to the Guinness World Records, the longest migration recorded by a bird with a stop to feed or rest is 7,580 miles.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

The male’s courtship and territorial display “involves loud calls and aerial acrobatics” – deep wing beats alternating with gliding – as the male bird circles over the tundra, according to the same source.

The “nest site” is usually on a raised knoll, surrounded by grass. The nest is a shallow depression, lined with blades of grass, moss, lichens.

The eggs of this bird are usually four in number, Audubon also notes – and these eggs are olive or pale brown, usually with a few brown spots. The eggs hatch after about three weeks.

The age of the youngster at the first flight? It’s probably around day 30, says Aubudon.

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

New York Post

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