A five-month-old bar-tailed godwit has set a new record for long-distance migration after flying 13,560 kilometers without stopping over a period of 11 days.
Millions of migratory birds set for the sky for a long and quite troublesome journey to escape the coming cold, feed, and breed for the next few months. A lot of them traverse through whopping distances of over 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles). This year, a staggering 13,560 kilometers (8,425 miles) was covered by a bird without stopping and setting a new Guinness record in the process.
This happened last month when the young bar-tailed godwit had its departure from Alaska to New Zealand for the winter. The bird took a little detour that added an extra 500 kilometers to its original itinerary.
“Short-tailed shearwaters and mutton birds can land on the water and feed,” Eric Woehler of Birdlife Tasmania told ABC News. “If a godwit lands on water, it’s dead. It doesn’t have the webbing in its feet, it has no way of getting off the water. So if it falls into the water from exhaustion, if bad weather forces it onto the ocean surface, that’s it.”
Scientists were able to track the godwit’s record flight with the help of a tiny tracker that only weighed 5 grams.
“It’s one thing to put a satellite tag on an albatross that weights five or more kilos but it’s a completely different story in terms of technology and ethics to put a tracker on a bird that weighs only 300 or 400 grams,” Dr. Woehler said.
The five-month-old bar-tailed godwit took off on October 13 from the wetlands of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska, followed the regular route across the Pacific Ocean down to New Caledonia and through the Tasman Sea, before making an unexpected 90-degree turn towards Tasmania rather than New Zealand.
Dr. Woehler estimates that the bird lost “half or more of its body weight,” during the 11-day continuous flight, but it made it to dry land safely. The previous record had been set in 2020 by another bar-tailed godwit that had covered 12,000 km (7,500 miles) in 11 days.