GPS wearing Blackpoll Warbler Bird reveals 3-Day nonstop Flight over the Atlantic Ocean

GPS wearing Blackpoll Warbler Bird reveals 3-Day nonstop Flight over the Atlantic Ocean

Vermont Center for EcoStudies
  • Wearables are not just for People.

Humans are just lame meat bags compared to nature’s best animals. A new research project revealed that a tiny bird makes 3-Day nonstop Flight over the Atlantic Ocean as part of its annual migration.

We have confirmation now what has been long assumed. The Blackpoll Warbler bird is flying nonstop over the Atlantic as part of its annual migration. It takes the tiny bird 3-days. 

An international research team led by Ryan Norris, a University of Guelph professor outfitted a bird with a small GPS tracker to confirm that the Blackpoll Warbler flies the approx. distance of 2,500km without landing or stop anywhere.

“This is the first study to provide direct evidence of the birds’ migration route – we found they flew directly over the Atlantic Ocean to reach their wintering grounds in South America,” said Ryan Norris.

The Blackpoll Warbler is a songbird weighing about 12g. The researchers outfitted birds with a GPS tracker weighing only 0.5g. The device was attached on the backs of the birds a leg loop harnesses, much like a person would wear a backpack. The GPS device tracked the birds’ flight path, but because of their small size, they were not able to transmit the data remotely.

“We waited for them to return in the spring and then searched the forest to find the blackpolls with geo-locators,” said William DeLuca, a research fellow at U Massachusetts, who led the Vermont part of the study.

“When we accessed the locators, we saw the blackpolls’ journey was indeed directly over the Atlantic. The distances travelled ranged from 2,270 to 2,770 km,” said DeLuca.

Each bird took 2 ½ to three days to make the trip. To prepare for the flight, they build up their fat stores, said Norris.

“These birds have a tremendous voyage ahead of them, with some likely flying from western Canada to the east coast before flying south. They eat as much as possible, in some cases doubling their body mass in fat so they can fly without needing food or water,” he said.

“For blackpolls, they don’t have the option of failing or coming up a bit short. It’s a fly-or-die journey that requires so much energy.” 

The Blackpoll Warbler is found in boreal forests of Canada and the United States from spring until early fall. Before migrating to South America for the winter, it spends summers in boreal forests stretching across North America.

The study was published today in the Royal Society Biology Letters.


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