Saturday, December 4

Strong winds force snipe to migrate from Alaska to New Zealand to turn around

An unfortunate ingenuity midway through its migration from Alaska to New Zealand has returned after hitting strong winds over the Pacific Ocean.

He just arrived at Foxton Beach.

File photo.
Photo: Phil Battley

The male, known as 4BRWB because of the bands on his legs, left the tidal flats in Alaska’s Yukon-Kuskokwim delta on September 11 before encountering strong winds 2,000 kilometers away on his journey.

Massey University Associate Professor of Zoology Phil Battley said 4BRWB ended up at its Alaskan takeoff point after 57 hours of steady flight, which seemed like a lot for a human, “but not so much for a wit.”

Battley is an ornithologist and ingenuity expert with a long relationship with the Pūkorokoro Miranda Shorebird Center.

He said the change mid-migration, after 33 hours of flight, was unusual. It was the first time that a tracked machine had been turned over due to high winds.

4BRWB was one of 20 birds equipped with radio transmitters in November 2019.

“He still has time. He will not have used up all his energy; he just realized that he was facing headwinds and thought ‘this is not a good start for a 10-day flight’ … and turned around” .

4BRWB weighed 284 grams when it was ringed. It was estimated to weighed 500 grams when it took off from the Yukon, burning off its fat stores during the 11,000 kilometers of migration.

Other morons who left Alaska at the same time have reached our shores, and cunning watchers reported the influx of birds over the past week. But it is also possible that others have chosen to back down.

4BRWB was tracked on its migration to New Zealand last year, where it also had to deal with high winds.

“Last year, it also had rough winds, strong easterly winds, and stopped in New Caledonia for a month, before coming back here. If you’ve been hit by a problem two years in a row, I think you can call it unlucky!

“But it’s a bird that knows how to survive by adjusting its behavior when it has to. Another amazing thing about this bird is that it left Yukon on exactly the same date this year as last year.”

Battley said that 4BRWB would not have used all its energy and that there was interest in how long it rested and the route it took back to New Zealand.

Snipe’s uninterrupted migration of 11,000 kilometers is one of the longest in the avian world. Last year, a male stinger, 4BBRW, made international headlines when it set what many believe is a new distance record for the species on the Alaska-Firth of Thames flight, which covers more than 12,000 km in 9.5 days.

Department of Conservation technical advisor Bruce McKinlay said the research tools used in this study allowed those monitoring the species to assess the impact of climate on ultra-long distance migration in real time, and also understand how adaptable. they were the migratory devices of the changing climate. .

The research is helping to build networks of protected areas in East Asia and supporting the work of the Department of Conservation in China and South Korea.

Real-time reports of birds stopping in South Korea in the northern hemisphere spring this year were used to improve the limits of World Heritage site nominations.

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