How far can migrating birds fly non-stop?

18th November 2010

Asked by: ANON

Until recently, ornithologists believed birds ran out of puff after travelling around 5000km non-stop. But in 2009, an international team of researchers reported that satellite tracking of a female bar-tailed godwit had revealed she had flown direct from Alaska to New Zealand without stopping – an astounding distance of 11,680km over eight days. It’s a feat only beaten by a man-made aircraft this summer, with the flight of the UK-built pilotless drone Zephyr. According to Dr Anders Hedenström of Lund University, Sweden, the godwit is a highly efficient flyer, consuming less than 1/200th of its body mass per hour of flight – half the rate of many other shorebirds. Its wings and body-shape are also optimised for long-haul flight. But while the physics might add up, it’s still unclear how the bird manages to travel so far without getting lost.

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