Our Window on Nature

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World Record –The Longest Migration

Filed under: Birds — Lowell Christie -- October 9, 2006 @ 8:41 pm

Sooty ShearwaterHere’s a shocker. The Sooty Shearwater, an 18 inch long seabird, migrates up to 40,000 miles a year, along a route that crosses the Pacific Ocean.

Working down in New Zealand, a crew of UC Santa Cruz biologists electronically tagged the legs of 33 shearwaters in early 2005. They recovered working tags when over half of them returned, carrying a record of where each bird flew.

Leaving in April, the Shearwaters crossed the Pacific Ocean (about 500 miles), pausing long enough to grab enough fish, squid, and krill to keep them alive. Part of their food they could gather from the ocean surface, but to get the rest, they had to dive up to 200 feet into the water!

Sooner or later all the tagged birds landed to spend their winter in one of three areas – off the coast of Japan, Alaska, or California.

There was no traveling from place to place — each bird started south from its own wintering area. And all the tagged Shearwaters crossed the equator within a 10-day period in October. Is that impressive, or what!


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