A bird said to have the aerodynamic build of a “jet fighter” has been tracked flying more than 12,000km (7,500 miles) from Alaska to New Zealand, setting a new world record for avian non-stop flight.
The bar-tailed godwit set off from south-west Alaska on 16 September and arrived in a bay near Auckland 11 days later, having flown at speeds of up to 55mph.
The male bird, known as 4BBRW in reference to the blue, blue, red and white rings fitted on its legs, also had a 5gm satellite tag harnessed on its lower back to allow scientists to track its progress. It was one of four to leave together from the Alaskan mudflats where they had been feeding on clams and worms for two months.
The male bar-tailed godwit, whose standard weight is between 190gm and 400gm, can double in size before a long flight but is able to shrink its internal organs to lighten the load.
After leaving Alaska, the birds headed south over the Aleutian Islands and on to the Pacific Ocean. The journey is thought to have been prolonged by strong easterly winds, which pushed the group towards Australia.
The satellite recorded a point-to-point flight of 12,854km but the scientists believe that once rounding errors are taken into account the journey will have been around 12,200km. It is estimated that the total flight time was 224 hours. The previous longest recorded non-stop flight by a bird, of 11,680km, was recorded in 2007.
Dr Jesse Conklin, from the Global Flyway Network, a consortium of scientists studying epic migratory journeys, said: “They seem to have some capability of knowing where they are on the globe. We can’t really explain it but they seem to have an onboard map.
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Source: The Guardian