During September a seeker spread its wings, flapped up in high, met the horizons and flew over 12,000 km non-stop in just 11 days. Bar-tailed Godwit is the new world record-setter of aviation. These birds are one of a kind among the shorebirds. Every year over 3 million Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) migrate among the population, it is divided into subspecies of menzebieri and baueri.

Usually, summer in Artic is occupied by the Godwit birds. Before the start of aviation, these aerodynamicists require fuel which was fed from molluscs, crustaceans and worms. The energy derived is mostly in the form of fat, so it’s no wonder they double its size. During the flight they have a fantastic ability to shrink the unwanted organs for flight such our stomach and liver, to compensate the weight gain which could make us wonder whether they are the real wizards of nature!

At the end of 2019, Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre, New Zealand to study the migratory paths and patterns of Godwits used a Century-old technique - colour ring system and modern satellite tracking.

Birds caught by Ornithologists are labelled with unique colour codes on the legs of birds and also embedded with microsatellite trackers.

The Global Flyway Network tracked the tireless journey and said that the birds flew across Pacific with a maximum speed of 88.5 Km per hour where there is no land. On September 16 a male Bar-tailed Godwit. bird with 4BBRW known as Blue, Blue, Red, White rings fitted to its legs and a 5-gram satellite tag attached to its lower back is pronounced to be the World Record Setter of Migration.

During the mid-month of the year 2020, it reached Alaska, which serves as the breeding ground. After several weeks of the breeding season, the godwits stack them up with loads of fat to last the flight. They left Alaskan mudflats and flew in Southern direction over the Aleutian Islands. Jesse Conklin, who is a part of Global Flyway Network consortium, said, “They have an incredibly efficient fuel to energy rate”.

These Bar-tailed Godwits were flying open ocean for 11 days without a rest stop from Alaska, and it must have felt like, ‘At last, I see the land’ and lands on a bay near Auckland in New Zealand. Scientists estimated the migration as 12,854 Kms, but after rounding off the errors, the Satellite data analyzed is 12,200 Kms.

The male Godwit broke the record of the longest nonstop flight by the female of its own species, which was recorded to be 11,500 Kms in 9 days during the Year 2007. Bar-tailed godwits also make use of the tailwinds to support it’s journey.

Migration is supported by various navigation cues such as sun, stars, monumental landmarks and the sensible Earth’s magnetic field. Birds use Sun and Stars to set their compass. The magneto-sensitive molecules present in the eyes of birds could sense the magnetic field, and a mineral called magnetite present in the beak acts a magnet showing which direction they should take.

Migratory birds are supported by landmarks such as mountains, rivers and shorelines. Most often, they travel on a familiar path. The Anthropogenic effects such us excessive light, sound, Pollution and Climate Change disturbs the pattern of migration. Developments such as us Skyscrapers alter the wind patterns. It is reported that wind turbines can kill birds and City lights being confusing for nocturnal flying birds.

Godwits marked the territory of the Yellow Sea, which floats between the nations of China and Korea as its staging site. The reason it is called as Staging sites is, it is the stop where ten thousand to million birds of certain species stop at the same time.

After the non-breeding season, the bar-tailed godwits used to leave the island of New Zealand during March and fly over the continent of Australia and travels through the East coast of Asia, and at last.

Russia before reaching Alaska, where it completes the migration loop.

Written by: Manju Pargavi

References:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/bird-designed-jet-fighter-sets-new-record-longest-nonstop-bird-migration-180976078/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/oct/13/jet-fighter-godwit-breaks-world-record-for-non-stop-bird-flight