This amazing bird is called bar-tailed godwit. It is the longest-flying bird in the world.
Bar-tailed godwits have broken flight distance records multiple times. But the latest achievement recorded in October 2022 is truly mind-bending: a 5-month-old bird traveled 13,560 km (8426 miles) non-stop, from Alaska to eastern Tasmania.
The journey of this bird lasted 11 days. Indeed, all birds get tired. But why take breaks when you can fly one-third of a globe without landing?
In this article, you will find several interesting facts about bar-tailed godwits.
Bar-tailed godwits are record flyers
The previous non-stop flight record of 13,000 km (8078 miles) also belonged to the same species. Their flights during the migration season are on average 11300 km (7000 miles) long.
How large is the bar-tailed godwit?
There are four sub-species of bar-tailed godwits, and they are slightly differ in size. But in general, it is a relatively large bird: its bill-to-tail length reaches 41 cm (16 in), and it has a wingspan of up to 80 cm (31 in). Females weigh up to 630 g; males are a bit smaller, growing up to 400 g in weight.
Where do bar-tailed godwits live?
When it is summer in Northern Hemisphere, these birds migrate to Arctic regions to breed. Some sub-species prefer Alaska, while others stay in Northern Siberia, or northern regions of Scandinavia.
When the cold season approaches, they relocate to more temperate areas. L. l. lapponica sub-species choose the shortest route and land in areas ranging from the coasts of the North Sea to India. L. l. baueri are the longest-flying representatives of this species: they fly from Alaska and land in Australia or New Zealand.
How do birds get all the energy needed for a long flight?
Of course, to fly thousands of miles birds need huge reserves of energy. Where do they keep all this “fuel”? The answer: they carry the greatest loads of fat compared to any other migratory bird. In bar-tailed godwits, even their digestive organs are reduced in size to make more space for even more fat.
How did scientists track the flight of these birds?
Modern electronic devices are very small. The tracked bird had a satellite tag weighing only 5 grams attached to its body. Scientists who made these measurements say such small tags were made possible only very recently. It is a very different thing to attach such tags to large birds such as an albatross weighing five or six kilograms, and another thing is to use the same principle on a much smaller bird, weighing 300-400 grams.
What do bar-tailed godwits eat?
To accumulate the necessary fat reserves, they need to eat a lot. The main dish in their diet consists of bristle worms. But to make it more varied, these birds supplement their food selection with small bivalve mollusks and crustaceans. When feasting on mollusks, they usually swallow them whole.
Bar-tailed godwits are in decline
The global population of these birds is declining – this fact is mostly related to human activities transforming the natural habitats of these birds. The largest problem for bar-tailed godwits is the loss of their food sources. If they are unable to build the necessary energy reserves, they are simply unable to make long-distance flights to their breeding grounds.
The current total number of birds is estimated to be somewhere between 1.10 and 1.15 million individuals. In many habitats, they are protected by wildlife conservation programs.