A tennis ball-sized bird makes annual ‘jet-like’ nonstop transatlantic flights, solving a 50-year puzzle

Resolving a 50-year mystery, a minuscule songbird weighing around three teaspoons of sugar can fly over the north Atlantic, scientists have said.

Weighing a mere 4.2 ounces (12 grammes), the white-throated, black-capped Blackpoll warbler (Setophaga strata) migrates each autumn from New England to South America.

Scientists have debated, for half a century, if the birds flew non-stop over the ocean or take breaks on land to carry out this grueling flight.

40 of the birds  with attached backpack flight recorders, provided “indisputable evidence” that they do it all in one go, according to the scientists report in the journal Biology Letters.

Weighing only 0.02 ounces,  the geolocators establish that the birds accomplished an astounding non-stop flight between 1,410 to1,721 miles.

This was the distance from their summer abodes in Vermont and Nova Scotia to Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Greater Antilles islands, where they made touchdown before continuation to northern Venezuela and Colombia.

Although, the devices were able to monitor the bird’s flight path, but were not big enough to convey the data in real time.

3 devices with the stored data were retrieved for examination from the Vermont birds, and two from the Nova Scotia cluster.

Known for their ultra-long flights, sandpipers, albatrosses, and gulls have widespread, long wings and can settle on water if they are blown off course or get tired.

But forest bird the size of a tennis ball, which would drown if it falls to the sea, to make such an achievement  is amazing, the researchers said.

Bill DeLuca at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said, “For small songbirds, we are only just now beginning to understand the migratory routes that connect temperate breeding grounds to tropical wintering areas.”

“We’re really excited to report that this is one of the longest non-stop over water flights ever recorded for a songbird, and finally confirms what has long been believed to be one of the most extraordinary migratory feats on the planet.”

 

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