Bird Migration

Mar 14, 2014

Bar-tailed godwith (Limosa lapponica) in breeding plumage.
Credit Andreas Trepte

3/16/14  &  3/17/14: This week on "Fieldnotes:" "Bird Migration, Part 2," by Andrea and Don Stierle.

"Biologist Robert Gill has studied bird migration for over thirty years. In 1976 he was studying migratory birds on the southeastern coast of Alaska. He was impressed by the obvious fat stores on a small wading bird, the bar-tailed godwit. Gill wondered why this little shorebird had such a heavy layer of fat and wondered if this allowed the bird to stay in the air for longer flights than most birds. Finally, in 2006, technology caught up with Gill's hypothesis. He and colleagues implanted satellite transmitters in bar-tailed godwits and tracked their flight.

The birds flew south across the Pacific Ocean. They did not stop along the way. Instead, they traveled up to 7,260 miles in nine days - the longest nonstop flight ever recorded. Gill clocked averages speeds of 35 miles an hour for the migrating godwits, with storms, gusts and cyclones boosting them south."