Bird’s 8,435-mile Alaska-Australia journey appears to set record

Bird’s 8,435-mile Alaska-Australia journey appears to set record

A bird expert stated on Friday that a young bar-tailed godwit may have established a non-stop distance record for migrating birds by flying at least 13,560 kilometers (8,435 miles) from Alaska to the Australian state of Tasmania.

The bird was tagged as a hatchling in Alaska during the summer of the Northern Hemisphere with a tracking GPS chip and a tiny solar panel, allowing an international research team to trace its first annual trip across the Pacific Ocean, according to Eric Woehler, convenor of Birdlife Tasmania. Due to the bird’s youth, its gender was unknown.

In this photograph, a bar-tailed godwit can be seen. Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Image

According to data from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, it left southwest Alaska in the Yuko-Kuskokwim Delta on October 13 and landed 11 days later at Ansons Bay on the island of Tasmania’s northeastern edge on October 24. The research has not yet been published or reviewed by peers.

According to a map issued by New Zealand’s Pukoro Miranda Shorebird Center, the bird initially headed southwest toward Japan before turning southeast over Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

The bird resumed its southwest trajectory as it flew over or near Kiribati and New Caledonia, then passed the Australian continent, before heading due west for Tasmania, Australia’s southernmost state. The satellite track revealed that it traveled 13,560 kilometers (8,436 miles) nonstop.

“We still do not know if this is an accident, if the bird got lost, or if this is part of the species’ typical migration pattern,” said Woehler, a member of the research team.

The longest documented migration by a bird without pausing for food or rest was 12,200 kilometers (7,580 miles) by a satellite-tagged male bar-tailed godwit flying from Alaska to New Zealand, according to the Guinness World Records.

This flight was recorded in 2020 as part of the same decade-long study effort, which also involves the Fudan University of China, the Massey University of New Zealand, and the Global Flyway Network.

According to researchers, the same bird broke its own record with a 13,000-kilometer (8,100-mile) journey on its second migration last year. But Guinness has yet to recognize this accomplishment.

According to Woehler, researchers do not know if the newest bird, identified by its satellite tag 234684, traveled alone or in a flock.

“Because so few birds have been tagged, we cannot determine whether or not this event is indicative,” Woehler added.

“It may be that half of the birds who migrate from Alaska to Tasmania do so without passing via New Zealand, or it could be 1%, or it could be the first time this has ever occurred,” he added.

Adult birds leave Alaska earlier than youngsters, thus it seems doubtful that the tagged bird followed more experienced travelers south, according to Woehler.

Woehler wants to see the bird after the weather clears in a remote region of Tasmania, where it will regain half its body weight after losing it throughout its journey.

Not only the bar-tailed godwit travels exceptionally large distances, but other birds do as well.

A Steller’s sea eagle was spotted in Massachusetts last year, more than 5,000 miles from its native Asia.

A 2015 study revealed that blackpoll warblers, which are little forest songbirds, undertake transoceanic journeys of up to 1,721 miles.

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