Welcome home migratory birds

Friday, October 8, 2010

Swallowtail kite visits
South Florida in
the summer.

Caribbean Migratory Bird Day is to be celebrated Saturday on the heels of our Bird Day. This celebration is being led by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB), the largest organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean.  Many of the island celebrations will have a "Welcome Home Migrants" theme.

And here’s a story about a migrant that will take your breath away. This comes from the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. (You can find many more amazing conservation and bird stories by going to www.refugenet.org/birding/birding5.html.)

This past spring, a 6-ounce Red Knot (Calidris canutus)—a shorebird only two-thirds the size of a city pigeon—flew non-stop for six days and nights, covering 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) across the Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean between southern Brazil and North Carolina, shattering the previous known Red Knot record by nearly 700 miles. Late in the previous summer, the same Red Knot flew non-stop for eight days between Canada’s Hudson Bay and the Caribbean, a distance of 3,167 miles (5,100 kilometers).

Red Knots winter as far south as Tierra del Fuego, South America, and breed in the Arctic. 

These are two of the fascinating results just published in the bulletin of the International Wader Study Group by a group of shorebird researchers from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Britain, and Australia. The network scientists used a new device, called a sunrise and sunset-sensitive geolocator attached to legs of Red Knots in New Jersey to follow the migration. The Red Knot is a species of special concern.

In addition to non-stop intercontinental flights of up to eight days, the researchers learned that the birds sometimes make extensive detours around tropical storms during their southbound migration and discovered new migratory paths. Such information will help ongoing conservation efforts for this threatened bird.